Mycophenolate Mofetil (CellCept) and Mycophenolate Sodium (Myfortic) are immunosuppressant drugs (a class of drugs that reduce the strength of the body’s immune system) used in the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. Mycophenolate was used originally in the management of patients with organ transplants, but is now recommended in the treatment of many autoimmune diseases.
Mycophenolate has been used to treat people with lupus (especially those with symptoms of kidney disease), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), vasculitis, inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease, inflammatory eye disease (such as uveitis (iritis) and scleritis), and some other kidney and skin disorders.
Mycophenolate is taken in the form of a pill. In adults, mycophenolate is typically taken twice daily for a total dose of 2–3 grams (2000–3000 mg) per day, although this dosage may be reduced in people with underlying kidney problems. The dose is usually lower than two grams a day for children. Caregivers administering mycophenolate should wear gloves when handling it due to concern with pregnancy risks and effects on the immune system. While taking mycophenolate, regular laboratory monitoring is required to monitor blood counts and liver function.
Mycophenolate can lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections. If you develop symptoms of an infection while using this medication, you should stop it and contact your rheumatology provider.
The most common side effects of mycophenolate are nausea and upset stomach. Taking mycophenolate with food often helps prevent side effects such as nausea or stomach pain. Other possible side effects include headaches, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, tremor, or rash. Prolonged use of mycophenolate may increase risk of some cancers such as lymphomas and skin cancers.
Make sure to notify your other physicians while you are taking this drug. Mycophenolate has been associated with birth defects and pregnancy loss. If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, let your doctor know before starting this medication. Women should discuss birth control with their primary care physicians or gynecologists. Breast-feeding should be avoided while taking this medication because the drug can enter breast milk.
Be sure to talk with your rheumatology provider before receiving any vaccines or undergoing any surgeries while taking this medication. Live vaccines should be avoided while on this medication and you should discuss updating your vaccinations prior to starting this medication. These include the older shingles vaccine (Zostavax); the nasal spray flu vaccine; and other live vaccines such as the measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, and yellow fever vaccines.
You should also notify your rheumatology provider if you have these symptoms while taking this medication: an infection (such as a fever or cough), diarrhea, or allergic reactions. Notify your rheumatology provider if you bruise or bleed easily, or if you experience persistent or bloody diarrhea, shortness of breath, fevers or other signs of an infection. Mycophenolate usage should halt if there are signs of an infection.
Updated February 2022 by Nina Washington, MD, and reviewed by the American College of Rheumatology Committee on Communications and Marketing. This information is provided for general education only.
Individuals should consult a qualified health care provider for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment of a medical or health condition.