What is Cyclosporine?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 July 2019
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Cyclosporine is a medication used to suppress immune system function. This medicine may be necessary after an organ transplant or when the immune system is overreacting to non-threatening stimuli. Taking cyclosporine may increase a person’s risk for cancer, especially of the skin or lymph nodes. It should only be taken under the direction and guidance of a doctor.

There are two types of cyclosporine: the original version and a variety called "cyclosporine (modified)", which has been designed to be absorbed more easily. It is important for a patient to take only the type of cyclosporine he was prescribed. The medicine may be taken in the form of a pill or in a liquid suspension and is absorbed into the body through the lining of the stomach. The drug is sold under a number of different brand names.

The most common use for this drug is to prevent a patient from rejecting a transplanted kidney, liver or heart. A normal immune system will often attack a transplanted organ because it does not immediately recognize it as a functional part of the body. Taking immune-suppressant drugs, including cyclosporine, can help a patient’s body adjust to the presence of a new organ. Cyclosporine is also used to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. In both of these conditions, the medication is only used after other treatments have been unsuccessful.


It is important to take this medication exactly as it is prescribed. Usually, it is taken at the same dose at regular intervals, which keeps levels of the medication constant throughout the day. A doctor may prescribe more or less of the medication to each patient and may taper off treatment toward the end of the regimen.

There are many side effects that can be experienced while taking cyclosporine, including headache, depression, difficulty sleeping, gastrointestinal effects, increased hair growth, flushing, shaking and unexplained pain. Serious side effects that must be reported immediately to a doctor include seizure, swelling, changes in behavior, confusion and loss of consciousness. In addition to these side effects, cyclosporine may increase a patient’s risk of developing certain types of cancer.

While taking cyclosporine, it may be necessary to avoid foods rich in potassium. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice should also be avoided while taking this drug. Serious interactions with other drugs can also occur, so it is important that the prescribing doctor or pharmacist be aware of any other medications a patient is currently taking.



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