Generic name: tacrolimus (ta-KROE-li-mus)
Drug class: Calcineurin inhibitors
Increased risk for developing serious infections and malignancies with tacrolimus for IV injection or other immunosuppressants that may lead to hospitalization or death ..
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Nov 25, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Immune Suppressant
Pharmacologic Class: Calcineurin Inhibitor
Uses for tacrolimus
Tacrolimus injection is used together with other medicines to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ (eg, kidney, liver, or heart). Tacrolimus may be used with steroids, azathioprine, or mycophenolate mofetil. Tacrolimus belongs to a group of medicines known as immunosuppressive agents.
When a patient receives an organ transplant, the body's white blood cells will try to get rid of (reject) the transplanted organ. Tacrolimus works by suppressing the immune system to prevent the white blood cells from trying to get rid of the transplanted organ.
Tacrolimus is a very strong medicine. It can cause side effects that can be very serious, such as kidney problems. It may also decrease the body's ability to fight infections. You and your doctor should talk about the benefits of tacrolimus as well as the risks of using it.
Tacrolimus is to be given only by or under the direct supervision of a doctor.
Before using tacrolimus
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For tacrolimus, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to tacrolimus or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of tacrolimus injection in children with liver, kidney, or heart transplants.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of tacrolimus injection in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have kidney, liver, or heart problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving tacrolimus injection.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving tacrolimus, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using tacrolimus with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using tacrolimus with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Adenovirus Vaccine, Live
- Amtolmetin Guacil
- Aripiprazole Lauroxil
- Arsenic Trioxide
- Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin Vaccine, Live
- Cholera Vaccine, Live
- Choline Salicylate
- Dengue Tetravalent Vaccine, Live
- Eslicarbazepine Acetate
- Flufenamic Acid
- Ibuprofen Lysine
- Influenza Virus Vaccine, Live
- Inotuzumab Ozogamicin
- Isavuconazonium Sulfate
- Measles Virus Vaccine, Live
- Mefenamic Acid
- Mumps Virus Vaccine, Live
- Niflumic Acid
- Nimesulide Beta Cyclodextrin
- Poliovirus Vaccine, Live
- Potassium Phosphate
- Propionic Acid
- Rotavirus Vaccine, Live
- Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Salicylic Acid
- Schisandra sphenanthera
- Smallpox Vaccine
- Sodium Phosphate
- Sodium Phosphate, Dibasic
- Sodium Phosphate, Monobasic
- Sodium Salicylate
- St John's Wort
- Tiaprofenic Acid
- Tolfenamic Acid
- Typhoid Vaccine
- Varicella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Yellow Fever Vaccine
- Zoster Vaccine, Live
Using tacrolimus with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of tacrolimus. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Allergy to polyoxyl 60 hydrogenated castor oil—Should not be used in patients with this condition.
- Diabetes or
- Hyperkalemia (high potassium in the blood) or
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) or
- Myocardial hypertrophy (heart is larger than normal), history of or
- Paresthesia (numbness or tingling in the hands, arms, legs, or feet), history of or
- Seizures (convulsions), history of or
- Tremors—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
- Infection, active (eg, bacteria, fungus, or virus)—May decrease your body's ability to fight an infection.
- Kidney disease or
- Liver disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
Proper use of tacrolimus
A nurse or other trained health professional will give you tacrolimus in a hospital. It is given through a needle placed into one of your veins. Your doctor may let you stay for at least the first 30 minutes after the start of the infusion and at frequent intervals thereafter.
You will only receive tacrolimus for a few days. Then your doctor will switch you to the oral (by mouth) form of tacrolimus.
Tacrolimus comes with a patient information insert and patient instructions. Read and follow the instructions carefully. Ask your doctor if you have any questions.
You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are receiving tacrolimus. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice will increase the amount of medicine in the body.
Precautions while using tacrolimus
It is very important that your doctor check your progress while you are receiving tacrolimus to make sure that tacrolimus is working properly. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Receiving tacrolimus while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. It may also cause birth defects if the father is using it when his sexual partner becomes pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while receiving tacrolimus, tell your doctor right away.
You should not receive tacrolimus together with sirolimus (Rapamune®).
Tacrolimus injection may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have itching, hives, hoarseness, trouble breathing or swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after you receive tacrolimus.
Tacrolimus may increase your risk of getting skin cancer or cancer of the lymph system (lymphoma). Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about this risk.
Tacrolimus may increase your risk of developing infections. Avoid being near people who are sick while you are receiving tacrolimus. Wash your hands often. Tell your doctor if you have any kind of infection before you start receiving tacrolimus. Tell your doctor if you have ever had an infection that would not go away or an infection that kept coming back.
While you are being treated with tacrolimus, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccines) without your doctor's approval. Tacrolimus may lower your body's resistance and the vaccine may not work as well or you might get the infection the vaccine is meant to prevent. In addition, you should not be around other persons living in your household who receive live virus vaccines because there is a chance they could pass the virus on to you. Some examples of live vaccines include measles, mumps, influenza (nasal flu vaccine), poliovirus (oral form), rotavirus, and rubella. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
Tacrolimus may increase your risk for developing a rare and serious virus infection with the BK polyoma virus. This virus may affect how your kidneys work and cause a transplanted kidney to fail. Check with your doctor right away if you are having more than one of these symptoms: bloody urine, decreased frequency or amount of urine, increased thirst, loss of appetite, lower back or side pain, nausea, swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs, trouble with breathing, unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting, or weight gain.
Tacrolimus may increase your risk of developing a serious and rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Check with your doctor right away if you are having more than one of these symptoms: vision changes, loss of coordination, clumsiness, confusion, memory loss, difficulty speaking or understanding what others say, and weakness in the legs.
Tacrolimus may cause serious nervous system problems. Tell your doctor right away if you have the following symptoms while using tacrolimus: blurred vision, dizziness, headache, mental changes, seizures, high blood pressure, or a fast heartbeat.
Hyperkalemia (high potassium in the blood) may occur while you are receiving tacrolimus. Check with your doctor right away if you have the following symptoms: abdominal or stomach pain, confusion, difficulty with breathing, irregular heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, nervousness, numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips, or weakness or heaviness of the legs.
Tacrolimus may cause a condition called pure red cell aplasia (PRCA). This is a very rare condition where the body no longer makes red blood cells and the patient has severe anemia. Check with your doctor right away if you have a fever and sore throat, pale skin, unusual bleeding or bruising, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
Use sunscreen or sunblock lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 on a regular basis when you are outdoors. Wear protective clothing and hats, and stay out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal (eg, St. John's wort) or vitamin supplements.
Tacrolimus side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Abnormal dreams
- frequent urination
- general feeling of discomfort or illness
- itching, skin rash
- joint pain
- loss of appetite
- loss of energy or weakness
- mental depression
- muscle aches and pains
- muscle trembling or twitching
- pale skin
- runny nose
- seeing or hearing things that are not there
- sore throat
- stomach pain
- swelling of the feet or lower legs
- trembling and shaking of the hands
- trouble with sleeping
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- Blurred vision
- chest pain
- increased sensitivity to pain
- muscle cramps
- numbness or pain in the legs
- ringing in the ears
- Enlarged heart
- flushing of the face or neck
- weight loss
Incidence not known
- Black, tarry stools
- blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
- bloody urine
- blurred vision
- fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
- increased blood pressure
- increased thirst
- joint pain
- lower back or side pain
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- pounding or rapid pulse
- red, irritated eyes
- red skin lesions, often with a purple center
- skin sores
- stomach pain
- troubled breathing
- ulcers or white spots in mouth or on lips
- weight gain
- yellow eyes or skin
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- difficulty with moving
- muscle stiffness
- Body aches or pain
- burning or stinging of the skin
- cracks in the skin
- delusions of persecution, mistrust, suspiciousness, or combativeness
- excessive muscle tone
- false beliefs that cannot be changed by facts
- false or unusual sense of well-being
- feeling of constant movement of self or surroundings
- feeling of unreality
- feeling that others are watching you or controlling your behavior
- feeling that others can hear your thoughts
- increased sensitivity of the skin to sunlight
- large, flat, blue or purplish patches in the skin
- muscle tension or tightness
- painful blisters on the trunk of the body
- painful cold sores or blisters on the lips, nose, eyes, or genitals
- poor insight and judgment
- problems with memory or speech
- quick to react or overreact emotionally
- rapidly changing moods
- redness or other discoloration of the skin
- scaly skin
- sensation of spinning
- sense of detachment from self or body
- severe mood or mental changes
- severe sunburn
- sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- sore mouth or tongue
- sores on the skin
- swelling or inflammation of the mouth
- tender, swollen glands in the neck
- trouble recognizing objects
- trouble thinking and planning
- trouble walking
- unusual behavior
- white patches in the mouth, tongue, or throat
Incidence not known
- Change in color vision
- decreased weight
- difficulty seeing at night
- feeling hot and cold
- hearing loss
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
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