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What Is Thioguanine?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Thioguanine is a generic medication commonly marketed under the brand name Tabloid®. It is prescribed to treat acute nonlymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer. Sometimes, a doctor may also prescribe it for chronic myelogenous leukemia if other medications have failed to work. Thioguanine is classified as an antimetabolite that works by interfering with the division and growth of cancer cells.

This medication is available as a pill, to be taken orally, or by mouth. Patients should consume plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day to increase urine output. This helps maintain kidney function, because kidney problems may be a potential complication of thioguanine. Sometimes, a doctor will prescribe other medications to be taken along with thioguanine. Certain drugs may not be taken at the same time as this one, so the doctor's specific dosing schedule should be carefully followed.

Serious or severe side effects from the use of this chemotherapy drug require emergency medical care. Patients should see their doctors if they experience problems breathing, tightness in the chest, or swelling of the tongue, mouth, or lips. A fever and chills may also occur, which can be signs of an infection. Patients may also experience joint pain, prolonged and severe vomiting, and jaundice. Sudden weight gain, abdominal pain or bloating, and unusual bruising or bleeding have also been reported.

Other side effects should be reported to the doctor as soon as possible if they are severe. These can include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Unsteadiness while walking, swelling of the lower legs and feet, and mouth or lip sores have been reported. Bloody urine or stools, tarry stools, and tiny red spots on the skin may also occur. Other patients have noticed coughing, hoarseness, and dizziness.

Thioguanine may also result in certain medical complications. Women and men may develop fertility problems. Tumor lysis syndrome, which is caused by the rapid death of large amounts of cancer cells, may result in kidney failure due to the release of byproducts like uric acid and phosphorus. Rarely, veno-occlusive liver disease (VOD) may also occur, which increases the risk of multiple organ failure. To help prevent the development of infections and diseases, patients may not receive a live vaccination while undergoing this chemotherapy.

Before taking thioguanine, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should never use this medicine. It may also be contraindicated for use by those who have a decreased white blood cell count or a weakened immune system. Thioguanine may interact with other drugs, including busulfan and aspirin.

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