Posts Tagged ‘anti-rejection medication’

Life on Anti-Rejection Medications After Transplant

Our bodies are wired to defend themselves against foreign invaders. After a patient undergoes an organ transplant, the body responds to the new organ as if it were a foreign object. The immune system goes into overdrive trying to reject it. This is why it is vital for transplant patients to take anti-rejection medications or immunosuppressant drugs immediately following transplant surgery and for the rest of their lives.

Potential Side Effects of Anti-Rejection Medication After Transplant

While necessary to keep transplant patients alive, anti-rejection medications do come with a few potential side effects. This is especially true of the drug tacrolimus, which is one of the most common anti-rejection medications available. Because this medication suppresses the immune system, the patient has a higher risk of infections and infectious complications. The drug can also cause high blood pressure and gout, have adverse effects on kidney function, and potentially create blood cell issues.

“The side effects of anti-rejection medications may feel overwhelming at first,” states Dr. Ram Subramanian, Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery and the Medical Director of Liver Transplantation at Emory University School of Medicine. “That’s why we closely monitor our post-transplant patients throughout their life and provide intense post-op care.”

The Importance of Proper Follow-Up Care

After a transplant, patients will need to follow up with their medical team regularly, especially during the months following the transplant.

“In the first few months, we see patients almost every week,” notes Subramanian. “In the first month after the transplant, we get labs and run blood tests up to three times a week. As time goes on, we allow more time between follow-ups, but we never really stop monitoring these patients.”

Your physician will also let you know which other drugs could interact poorly with your medication and alert you to any necessary lifestyle changes. For instance, grapefruit juice affects the body’s absorption of anti-rejection medications and should be avoided. And, because these life-saving organs require extra care, medical professionals will insist patients abstain from alcohol after a liver transplant.

Medication Education

Since patients must start taking pharmaceuticals on a daily basis, there’s an education process that occurs immediately after their transplant.

“Before discharging a patient, our team sits down with him and his family to review the medications. Everyone needs to know what the medicine looks like, the frequency at which it should be taken, as well as what time of day,” explains Subramanian. “It’s very detailed training for the patient and his family.”

It’s absolutely vital patients don’t skip any days of their medication or stop taking it, even if they appear to be in good health. Without the medication, the body can still reject the organ at any time, and the signs of rejection are very subtle.

Living a Long Life on Anti-Rejection Medications

If patients take care of themselves and are compliant with their anti-rejection medications, they can have a long life after organ transplant.

“I recently saw someone in the clinic who does an excellent job taking his medicine and caring for his body,” notes Subramanian. “His liver transplant took place 30 years ago and he’s still here thanks to his anti-rejection medication.”

To hear more from Dr. Subramanian about living life on anti-rejection medications, listen to his podcast on this topic.

For more information about organ transplant and the Emory Transplant Center, visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant.

About Dr. Subramanian

Dr. Ram Subramanian is Associate Professor of Medicine and Surgery, and the Medical Director of Liver Transplantation. In his dual role as a transplant hepatologist and an intensivist.

Dr. Subramanian is involved in the inpatient care of patients before and after liver transplantation. His clinical and research interests are focused on critical care issues related to hepatic failure and liver transplantation.

 

Emory Receives $20 Million Grant from NIH for Continued Transplant Research

Emory Transplant CenterIn the last few years, thanks to the development of anti-rejection drug therapies, outstanding breakthroughs in short-term outcomes have been achieved among organ transplant patients. We first introduced you to belatacept on our blog in September of 2010, while the medication was being studied by our team of doctors and researchers. Then in June of last year, we announced the FDA’s approval of belatacept and its confirmed ability to provide a less toxic alternative to the standard anti-rejection medications, including calcineurin inhibitors like cyclosporine.

Even with these developments, though, significant challenges remain for patients over the long term with organ rejection and drug toxicity that often leads to cardiovascular disease, infection or cancer.
To help overcome these challenges, a new $20 million grant has been bestowed upon Emory from the National Institute of Health to allow physician/researchers to develop better treatments for organ transplant recipients that help avoid both organ rejection and drug toxicity. The new grant builds upon more than 18 years of groundbreaking research by Emory scientists—such as the investigation into belatacept—that has already significantly advanced the transplant field.

Christian Larsen, Emory Transplant Center Director

Dr. Larsen

“Despite tremendous advances in immune drug therapy, the fact remains that organ recipients still must take immunosuppressant drugs over their lifetimes,” says Chris Larsen, MD, PhD, executive director of the Emory Transplant Center and principal investigator of the new grant. “Improvement in these transplant drugs is still a critical need for avoiding acute and late-stage rejection. Ultimately, we want to improve overall health while reducing cost through improved outcomes with fewer drugs.”

In addition to Dr. Larsen, project leaders from the Emory Transplant Center will include Allan D. Kirk, MD, PhD, scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar; Leslie Kean, MD, PhD, Emory associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Division of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Stuart J. Knechtle, MD, surgical director of the liver transplant program at Emory Transplant Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Andrew Adams, MD, PhD, assistant professor of surgery.

“The most important feature of this award is its support for multiple investigators attacking the problems of immunosuppression from different but complementary angles,” says Kirk. “The team science approach is the best way to get results to our patients.”

Several projects funded by the new grant will aim to develop more effective transplant drugs and strategies to avoid immunosuppressant drugs altogether.

An additional project will develop strategies to overcome immune sensitization in patients who have had previous transplants, pregnancies or blood transfusions. These patients often are not candidates for transplant because of their increased risk of rejection.

For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, its research projects and clinical programs please  use the Related Resources links below.

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