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Treatments & Procedures

Transplant Medications Overview

The most important step in maintaining your health after your transplant is to take your medications exactly as prescribed. These drugs help prevent rejection and infection and must be taken for the rest of your life.

What will I need to know about taking my medications?

Before any medication is prescribed, your physician will ask you:

  • If you are allergic to any medications
  • If you are currently taking any other medications (including over-the-counter medications)
  • If you have problems taking any medications

The type of medications, the dosage and side effects may be different for each patient. While you are in the hospital, the Lung Transplant Team will teach you about your medications and give you information sheets describing each drug and how to take it. Before you go home, the Transplant Team will make sure that you know:

  • The name of the drugs prescribed and their action
    Please note: all medications have two names -- the generic or chemical name (such as furosemide) and the brand name (such as Lasix®). The Transplant Team will tell you both names of the medications.
  • The dosages, the time of day and how to take them
  • The side effects and how you can treat or prevent them

Your family members are also encouraged to learn about your medications.

Will the drugs I'm taking cause any side effects?

Some of the drugs you are prescribed may cause unwanted side effects such as weight gain, acne or excess hair growth. Despite these side effects, never change the dose or stop taking your medications without first checking with your physician. Many of the side effects can be controlled -- your doctor may adjust your dosage or offer other suggestions for managing the side effects. Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory so your response to the drug can be monitored.

The individual drug information sheets contained in this notebook describe the common side effects of each drug and how to manage them.

Call your doctor or transplant coordinator if you become sick and vomit soon after taking your medication. Do not take a second dose without first talking to your health care provider. If you have diarrhea for more than one day, call your doctor or transplant coordinator. Also call if you have any other symptoms that are persistent or severe.

Does it really matter if I miss a dose?

Yes. It is very important to always follow the instructions for your medications every day to prevent rejection. The third major cause of transplant failure results from not taking anti-rejection medications as prescribed.

What if I forget to take my medications at the scheduled time?

If you miss a dose of your medication at the scheduled time, don't panic. Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular medication schedule.

As you begin to feel well it may be easy to forget to take your medications, but always remember that your body never stops requiring the transplant medications. By taking your medications consistently and following-up with your physician routinely, you are assuming the most important job after your transplant.

Dose changes

Your physician will periodically change the dose of your medications. The dose may be changed because you are having uncomfortable side effects or because blood test results indicate that a different dose is needed.

You will receive a medication dosage record to write down your medications and dosages. Every time your physician tells you to change the dose of your medication, cross out the previous dose and write in the new dose. ( Use ink, not pencil, and do not erase previous information so you have a record of your earlier doses). Remember, never change the dose of your medication unless your physician has told you to.

Other medications

Never take other medications without first talking to your physician, including over-the-counter drugs (those you can buy without a prescription). Some over-the-counter drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Nuprin®), vitamins, cold medicine, antihistamines, antacids, laxatives, and sleeping pills. Some over-the-counter medications may decrease the effectiveness of your transplant medications and can cause unwanted side effects.

Can I get financial assistance to help pay my medication expenses?

Yes. Your health care providers realize your medications are expensive, especially since you must take them for the rest of your life. There are several government and state programs that offer financial assistance for medication expenses.

Please ask your health care provider what programs are available for you. You can also ask to see a financial counselor who can answer questions about insurance coverage and Medicare benefits related to your medication expenses.

Will any new medications be available?

Exciting developments in drug research are creating new immunosuppressive medications. The Cleveland Clinic Lung Transplant Program participates in new drug studies on a continuous basis. You may be asked to take part in one of these programs after your transplant. All programs are strictly voluntary and have no influence on your transplant status.

General medication guidelines

Note: These are general guidelines. Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidelines specific to your medication.

  • Keep a list of all your medications and their dosages with you.
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not stop taking your medications unless you talk to your doctor first. Stopping your medication too early can cause the illness to return or make it more difficult to treat.
  • Do not double the dose of your medication.
  • If you miss a dose of your medication at the scheduled time, don't panic. Take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular medication schedule.
  • Do not keep outdated medication or medication that is no longer needed. Throw old medicines away.
  • Store medications in a dry area away from moisture (unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you the medicine needs to be refrigerated).
  • Always keep medications out of the reach of children.
  • Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any unusual side effects after taking your medication.
  • Do not share your medications with others.
  • If you store your medications in a container, label it with the medication name, dose, frequency, and expiration date.
  • Keep your medications in your carry-on luggage when you travel. Do not pack your medications in a suitcase that is checked, in case the suitcase is lost.
  • Take extra medication with you when you travel in case your flight is delayed and you need to stay away longer than planned.

Questions to ask about your medications

Be sure you know the answers to these questions before you start taking any new medication:

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Why do I need to take it?
  • How often should I take it?
  • What time of day should I take it?
  • Should I take it on an empty stomach or with meals?
  • Where should I store the medication?
  • What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
  • How long should I expect to take the medication?
  • How will I know it is working?
  • What side effects should I expect?
  • Will the medication interfere with driving, working, or other activities?
  • Does the medication interact with any foods, alcohol, or other medications (including over-the-counter medications)?

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Can't find the health information you're looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/15/2006...#4684