I take 9 different types of medication daily. Of the nine, I consider one of them to be a lifesaving drug, a heavy hitter, both in efficacy and side effects. It is azathiopren (Imuran), an immunosuppressant.
Immunosuppressants are a type of medicine that suppress your immune system. In the last four years, I have taken three different types of immunosuppressant drugs. My first was a few rounds of chemotherapy, cyclophosphamide (cytoxan). Next, I took a few years of mycophenolate mofetil (cellcept), until I switched to Imuran last year.
Immunosuppressant drugs are used when lupus becomes life-threatening and causes kidney inflammation, lung or heart problems, and central nervous system symptoms. Hence, they are usually only prescribed if you have severe lupus. This is because this type of medication is powerful and can cause side effects including, but not limited to, vomiting, bruising or bleeding more easily, headache, liver damage, an increased risk of infection and cancer. Some of them can also cause birth defects.
I certainly live with many of these damaging side effects everyday. But without the immunosuppressant, there is a fear that my lupus will cause my immune system to attack my vital organs again. My hope is that at the end of the day, I am weaned off this and my many other drugs. But until then, I am thankful that immunosuppressant drugs are keeping me alive.