Mercaptopurine is available as a pill you can swallow. It is
sometimes called 6-mercaptopurine, or 6-MP.
How It Works
Mercaptopurine stops cells from growing and dividing.
Why It Is Used
Mercaptopurine is used to treat
acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). It may also be used
chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) becomes a more
aggressive disease and, very rarely, for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).
Mercaptopurine is also sometimes used to treat
inflammatory bowel disease,
Crohn's disease, and
ulcerative colitis that has not responded to other
How Well It Works
Mercaptopurine works well against some ALL, CML, and a type of
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma called lymphoblastic lymphoma.1
It sometimes works well in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's
disease, and ulcerative colitis that has not responded to other drugs.
Side effects of mercaptopurine are common and may include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Mercaptopurine is usually used only under the supervision of a
medical oncologist or
hematologist. It may also be used by a
gastroenterologist to treat inflammatory bowel
Mercaptopurine may increase the blood-thinning effects of other
drugs, such as warfarin (for example, Coumadin).
You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after
taking mercaptopurine. Talk about this with your doctor before starting
Mercaptopurine can cause birth defects. Do not use this drug if you
are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or to father a child while you are taking
Women who take this drug may experience symptoms of menopause,
including hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Do not use alcohol or illegal drugs while you are taking this
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Itakura H, Coutre SE (2009). Acute lymphoblastic leukemia in adults. In JP Greer et al., eds., Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology, 12th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1821-1842. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.