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    Cyclosporine for Inflammatory Bowel Disease


    Generic Name Brand Name
    cyclosporine Neoral, Sandimmune

    How It Works

    Cyclosporine is a medicine that weakens or suppresses the immune system, which may help decrease inflammation in the digestive tract.

    Why It Is Used

    Cyclosporine is used for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that has not responded to other medicines.

    How Well It Works

    Medicines that suppress the immune system have been effective against IBD. Cyclosporine usually is used for ulcerative colitis that does not respond to other medicines. Cyclosporine tends to work more quickly than other immunosuppressive medicines, such as azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine, during an acute attack of IBD.

    Cyclosporine has been shown to reduce the need for surgery in acute attacks of IBD. It also works to put ulcerative colitis in remission and keep the disease in remission for a short time.1 This allows people to try other medicines to suppress IBD symptoms.

    Cyclosporine also is used in treating abnormal connections (fistulas) of the intestines in Crohn's disease. In rare cases, cyclosporine may be used in people with Crohn's disease that does not improve with other medicines. But the side effects of the medicine keep it from being used for very long. Symptoms usually come back when the medicine is stopped.1

    Side Effects

    All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

    Here are some important things to think about:

    • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
    • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
    • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

    Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

    Call your doctor if you have:

    Cyclosporine may also cause side effects that your doctor will test for, including:

    Common side effects of this medicine include:

    • Headache.
    • Increased hair growth.
    • Shaking hands (tremor).
    • Sores in the mouth or bleeding, painful, or swollen gums.
    • Tingling in your feet or hands.

    See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

    What To Think About

    This medicine can stop your immune system from fighting infection. When you are taking it (and even when you have finished taking it), try not to be around people who are sick. And make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations.

    Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this medicine.

    Taking medicine

    Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

    There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

    Advice for women

    Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.


    Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

    Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


    1. American Gastroenterological Association (2006). American Gastroenterological Association Institute medical position statement on corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and infliximab in inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology, 130(3): 935-939. Also available online:

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter J. Kahrilas, MD - Gastroenterology

    Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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