This medication is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, a condition in which the body's defense system (immune system) fails to recognize the body as itself and attacks the healthy tissues around the joints. Leflunomide helps to reduce the joint damage/pain/swelling and helps you to move better. It works by weakening your immune system and decreasing swelling (inflammation).
How to use Leflunomide
Take this medication by mouth with or without food as directed by your doctor, usually once daily. Take this medication exactly as prescribed. You may be instructed to take a higher dose for the first 3 days of treatment.
The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment.
Take this medication regularly in order to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, take it at the same time each day.
After treatment is stopped, a different drug (cholestyramine) may be given as directed to help remove leflunomide from your body. This procedure is used if you need a rapid removal of the drug from your system (for example, if you are a female/male planning to have children, or suffering from severe side effects). Without the procedure, the drug may stay in your body for up to 2 years. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
Tell your doctor if your symptoms last or get worse.
Remember that this medication has been prescribed because your doctor has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.
Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: cough, numbness/tingling of hands/feet, hair loss, chest pain, fast/pounding heartbeat, increased thirst/urination, muscle cramp/pain, mental/mood changes, vision changes, easy bruising/bleeding, unusual growths/lumps, unexplained weight loss, unusual tiredness.
This medication may lower your ability to fight infections. This may make you more likely to get a serious (rarely fatal) infection or make any infection you have worse. Get medical help right away if you have any signs of infection (such as sore throat that doesn't go away, fever, swollen lymph nodes, chills).
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.
Leflunomide can commonly cause a mild rash that is usually not serious. However, you may not be able to tell it apart from a rare rash that could be a sign of a severe allergic reaction. Get medical help right away if you develop any rash.
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
In the US -
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch.
In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
Leflunomide must not be used during pregnancy because it may cause serious harm (possibly death) to an unborn baby. Women of childbearing age must have a negative pregnancy test before starting this medication. They must also use reliable forms of birth control before starting leflunomide, while taking it, and after stopping it until they have finished taking another drug that helps leflunomide leave the body and confirmed through 2 blood tests that the leflunomide levels are very low (see How to Use section). If you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant, inform your doctor right away (see Precautions section).
This drug may rarely cause serious (possibly fatal) liver disease. Most cases occur within 6 months of taking this drug. If you already have liver disease (such as hepatitis B or C), leflunomide should not be used. Liver function (blood) tests must be performed periodically while taking leflunomide. Tell your doctor right away if you notice nausea/vomiting that doesn't stop, dark urine, light-colored stools, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes/skin. See Drug Interactions section.
Before taking leflunomide, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or to teriflunomide; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.
Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: immune system disorder (such as HIV infection), current/recent infection (such as tuberculosis), cancer, bone marrow/blood disorder, kidney disease, liver disease (such as hepatitis B or C), alcohol abuse, heart disease (such as heart failure), high blood pressure, lung disease.
This drug may make you dizzy. Alcohol or marijuana (cannabis) can make you more dizzy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do anything that needs alertness until you can do it safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Talk to your doctor if you are using marijuana (cannabis). Alcohol may also cause liver disease.
Leflunomide can make you more likely to get infections or may make current infections worse. Stay away from anyone who has an infection that may easily spread (such as chickenpox, COVID-19, measles, flu). Talk to your doctor if you have been exposed to an infection or for more details.
This medication must not be used during pregnancy. It may harm an unborn baby. Before starting this medication, women of childbearing age must have a negative pregnancy test before starting this medication. Men and women must use effective forms of birth control (such as condoms and birth control pills) while taking this medication. Consult your doctor for more details and to discuss reliable forms of birth control. (See also Warning section.)
It is not known whether this medication affects the sperm. To minimize any possible risk, the manufacturer recommends that men wishing to father a child should consider stopping the medication and using another drug (cholestyramine) as directed to help this drug leave the body before attempting to father a child. (See How to Use section.) Consult your doctor for more details.
See also How to Use Section.
Drug interactions may change how your medications work or increase your risk for serious side effects. This document does not contain all possible drug interactions. Keep a list of all the products you use (including prescription/nonprescription drugs and herbal products) and share it with your doctor and pharmacist. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicines without your doctor's approval.
Some products that may interact with this drug include: warfarin, drugs affecting the liver (such as methotrexate), cholestyramine, other drugs that weaken the immune system (such as tacrolimus, cyclosporine).
If someone has overdosed and has serious symptoms such as passing out or trouble breathing, call 911. Otherwise, call a poison control center right away. US residents can call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Canada residents can call a provincial poison control center.
Do not share this medication with others.
A skin test to check for tuberculosis should be performed before you start this medication. Lab and/or medical tests (such as liver function, blood counts, blood pressure) should be done while you are taking this medication. Keep all medical and lab appointments. Consult your doctor for more details.
If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of the next dose, skip the missed dose. Take your next dose at the regular time. Do not double the dose to catch up.
Store at room temperature away from light and moisture. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep all medications away from children and pets.
Do not flush medications down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. Properly discard this product when it is expired or no longer needed. Consult your pharmacist or local waste disposal company.
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CONDITIONS OF USE: The information in this database is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of healthcare professionals. The information is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be construed to indicate that use of a particular drug is safe, appropriate or effective for you or anyone else. A healthcare professional should be consulted before taking any drug, changing any diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.