Does Timing Matter When Taking Anti-Rejection Medications for Your Transplanted Kidney or Heart?
Having an organ transplant can feel like a new lease on life!
You find that you can suddenly do more of the things that you enjoy. However, new recipients are sometimes overwhelmed with all the requirements of post-transplant living.
Protecting your new gift requires some discipline and consistency. As a new transplant recipient, you become keenly aware of things like:
- Water-intake levels
- Urine-output measurements
- Changes in weight
- Blood-pressure levels
- Blood-sugar levels
To maintain the health of your transplanted organ, it is important that you take your immunosuppressant (anti-rejection) medications, but also at the same times each day.
Anti-rejection medications help to tame your body’s ability to attack and potentially damage your transplanted organ. To accomplish this, however, anti-rejection medications need to be taken:
- Every day
- At the same times
There are No “Drug Holidays” When it Comes to Taking Anti-Rejection Meds
One of the leading causes of transplant failure is not taking your anti-rejection medicines as prescribed.1
As soon as your body realizes there’s an organ that is not regarded as “self,” the immune system tries to mount an attack and response to the transplanted organ. That’s where your anti-rejection medications are so important to prevent this from happening.
By taking your anti-rejection medications at the same time each day and as prescribed, you will keep the medications at an even level in your blood.
“One of the easiest ways to keep your transplanted organ healthy is to take your medication as prescribed,” says A. Osama Gaber, MD, FACS, chair of the department of surgery, professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine, and director of the J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center at Houston Methodist. “Doctors take a personalized approach to choosing an appropriate medication regimen for each patient, which allows them to limit the risk of side effects and keep the transplanted organ protected. This personalized approach can help extend the longevity of the heart or kidney.”
What Are the Anti-Rejection Medication Types?
There are many classes of anti-rejection “maintenance” drugs. Common ones include:2
- Calcineurin Inhibitors: Tacrolimus and Cyclosporine
- Antiproliferative agents: Mycophenolate Mofetil, Mycophenolate Sodium, and Azathioprine
- mTOR inhibitor: Sirolimus and Everolimus
- Co-stimulation Blocking infusions: Belatacept, Iscalimab
- Steroids: Prednisone
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) says that blood levels of anti-rejection medications like tacrolimus, cyclosporine, and sirolimus must be closely monitored. Therefore, taking these medications as directed is the most important step you can take to prevent rejection.3
What If I Forget to Take My Anti-Rejection Medications at the Same Time Each Day?
The NKF says, “Even missing a single dose may make it more likely for you to have a rejection.”4
The AlloCare™ App—Your Companion in Transplant Management
There are several ways to remind yourself to take anti-rejection medications—and any of your post-transplant medications.
One such way is to set reminders on your phone or a clock. Another solution is using a pill box that is a container divided into different compartments. The pills for each time of day are sorted into these different compartments.
There are also smartphone apps—like AlloCare—that are specifically made for transplant patients.
AlloCare lets you manage your transplant medications by:
- Automatically updating medications from your medical record
- Showing you medication images
- Reminding you to take your meds on time
- Letting you track your progress (week-over-week) with taking your medication
The free AlloCare app also has other features that track other metrics like blood pressure, water intake, steps, even mood.
For more information about the AlloCare app, go to /patients-and-caregivers/patient-solutions/allocare/.
For your free download of the AlloCare app, go to https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1497962881.