Leflunomide (Arava): Patient information
Who should take leflunomide?
Leflunomide is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other types of arthritis where the immune system attacks its own tissues.
How leflunomide works?
Leflunomide blocks the formation of DNA, which is important for developing cells, such as those in the immune system.
When and how do I take leflunomide?
Leflunomide is taken in tablet form once a day. Leflunomide can be taken at any time of day, with or without food, and should be swallowed whole.
What dose do I take this medication?
Your doctor will advise you. Usually you will take either 10 mg or 20 mg a day.
What are the possible side effects?
- The most common side effects of leflunomide are a feeling of sickness, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, weight loss, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness, weakness, skin dryness and hair loss.
- It may cause a slight rise in your blood pressure.
- Leflunomide may cause mild allergic symptoms including rash and itching.
- Taking leflunomide can also affect the blood count and it can make you more likely to develop infections.
- Leflunomide can affect the liver.
What should I do if I developed shingles?
If you have not had chickenpox but come into contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles, or if you develop chickenpox or shingles, you should stop leflunomide and see your doctor immediately as you may need special treatment.
Do I need any routine tests while on leflunomide?
Your doctor will arrange for you to have a blood test and blood pressure measurement before you start treatment and then regular checks while on leflunomide.
Can I have vaccination while on leflunomide?
It is recommended that you should not be immunized with ‘live’ vaccines such as yellow fever and others. Pneumovax and yearly flu vaccines are safe and recommended.
Does leflunomide affect fertility or pregnancy?
Leflunomide may harm an unborn baby. Therefore it should not be taken during pregnancy.While taking leflunomide both men and women must use reliable contraception. Women must wait 2 years between stopping leflunomide and becoming pregnant. The 2-year ‘waiting’ period can be reduced to 3 months if you receive a special ‘washout’ treatment to help eliminate leflunomide from your body.Men are advised to stop taking leflunomide, receive the ‘washout’ treatment, and wait 3 months before trying to father a child.
What about breastfeeding?
You should not breastfeed if you are taking leflunomide.
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