Cellcept (mycophenolate mofetil, mycophenolic acid, or sometimes mycophenolate) is a medication that works by suppressing the immune system.
Cellcept is useful in treating rheumatic diseases like lupus. Outside of rheumatology, Cellcept is used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients.
Cellcept is available as oral tablets in 250 and 500 mg doses. The normal dose of Cellcept is between 500 and 1500 mg twice per day.
It takes 6 to 12 weeks for the Cellcept to start working. It is important for patients starting this medicine to keep taking it as prescribed.
Taking Cellcept with food can help minimize possible side effects like nausea and stomach pain.
Important Tests and Risks
Regular Blood Tests
Patients taking Cellcept should have their blood tested regularly to make sure that the medicine isn’t affecting the blood counts or harming the liver.
Risk of Infection
Cellcept can make it a bit harder for people to fight off infections. People taking this medicine should call their doctor they have a fever, think they have an infection, or have been prescribed antibiotics to treat an infection.
Stop Before Surgery
It is important for patients to coordinate with their doctor to stop treatment before any surgery. It can be re-started once things have healed and there’s no sign of infection.
Patients should discuss all vaccinations with their doctor because some (live vaccines) are not advisable to get while taking Cellcept.
How Cellcept Works
Cellcept (mycophenolic acid) works by preventing certain types of cells from multiplying.
It targets an enzyme in the body called inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase that is important for creating new strands of DNA. By interfering with this process, Cellcept makes it difficult for cells to multiply. White blood cells that form part of the body’s immune system are particularly affected by this process.
In people with rheumatic disease, the immune system is attacking the body by mistake. Cellcept softens this attack by preventing immune system cells from replicating and making more of themselves. Although suppressing the immune system can make it slightly harder for patients to fight off infections, it can also help stabilize an overactive immune system.
Cellcept is a powerful medicine that requires regular blood tests to monitor for more serious side effects.
Side-effects of Cellcept include:
- Nausea & feeling unwell – Some patients feel sick to their stomach or develop diarrhea when they take Cellcept. They should tell their doctor if this happens.
- Headaches – Cellcept can cause headaches, dizziness, and difficulty sleeping.
- Sores in the mouth
- Rare brain infection – Some patients have very rarely developed a rare brain infection called Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy while taking Cellcept.
- Cancer – When used for long periods of time, Cellcept may be associated with a small increased risk of skin or blood cancers.
People taking Cellcept should talk to their doctor if they are concerned about any side effects.
Cellcept can simply be stopped and does not need to be “weaned off”. Patients should tell their doctor if they stop taking this medicine.
Cellcept is not normally used in pregnancy. Patients who become pregnant or are breastfeeding while taking this medicine should tell their doctor.
Who Should NOT Take Cellcept
Patients who should NOT be taking Cellcept include:
- Patients who have had a previous reaction to Cellcept
- Women who are pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or are breast feeding
- Patients with active infections
- Possibly patients with a past history of cancer
Anyone who becomes pregnant while taking Cellcept should notify their doctor immediately.
When to Call a Doctor
People taking Cellcept should call their doctor if they feel sick and want to stop, or they are concerned about any side effects.
Other reasons to call a doctor while taking Cellcept include:
- Nausea or Diarrhea
- Fever or possible infection
- Becoming pregnant or planning pregnancy
- Before getting any vaccinations
- Before any surgery