Azulfidine® is a prescription anti-inflammatory drug used to treat ulcerative colitis, a type of chronic bowel disease. It may also be prescribed to help manage symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in patients who do not respond well to other medications. The drug works by blocking chemical signals that would normally trigger inflammatory responses, thereby reducing swelling, muscle contractions, pain, and other symptoms. Ulcerative colitis patients are usually given fast-acting tablets to take daily during active attacks of their disease. People with rheumatoid arthritis can take extended-release capsules on a daily basis to prevent symptomatic episodes.
The active ingredient in Azulfidine®, sulfasalazine, has potent anti-inflammatory properties. After the drug is digested, it is broken down into simpler chemicals in the intestines that block the activity of inflammation-inducing enzymes. The medication has direct effects on the colon in patients with ulcerative colitis. Extended-release Azulfidine® is absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to joints throughout the body before it produces anti-inflammatory effects.
Fast-acting Azulfidine® tablets are typically prescribed to be taken three times a day in 3- to 4-gram doses. As a form of maintenance therapy for rheumatoid arthritis, extended-release capsules are usually taken in three daily doses of 2 grams. Exact dosage strengths and frequencies may be adjusted by the prescribing doctor depending on the patient's age, weight, and physical response to the drug. It is important to visit the doctor periodically during treatment so he or she can make sure it is working correctly.
It is possible to experience mild side effects when taking Azulfidine®. The most common side effects include headaches, stomach upset, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. A person may lose his or her appetite and have watery diarrhea for the first few days of treatment. Allergic reactions to Azulfidine® are rare but potentially serious. It is important to contact a doctor if swallowing difficulties, chest pains, facial swelling, or itchy skin rashes develop shortly after taking a dose of the drug.
Most patients who use Azulfidine® do not experience major negative reactions or health complications. Depending on how well treatment works, a doctor may decide to keep prescribing the drug indefinitely or slowly ween the patient off the medication altogether. Drug therapy can be initiated again if symptoms return. There are no cures for ulcerative colitis or rheumatoid arthritis, so it is possible that a patient may need to keep taking daily medications for life to make his or her condition more bearable.