Azathioprine and Mercaptopurine

Azathioprine and mercaptopurine are both members of the thiopurine class of drugs and have been used to treat IBD patients since the early 1960s. For CD and UC they are prescribed to around one in five patients to maintain remission (stopping inflammation from coming back) and to help to come off steroids.

Mercaptopurine is used less often than azathioprine in Canada. Some patients who cannot tolerate azathioprine (due to side effects) may still be able to take mercaptopurine. Generally IBD patients are not offered thiopurines when first diagnosed, only after they have achieved remission on other treatments. Azathioprine or mercaptopurine are considered as treatment options to help people reduce or stop steroids without suffering another flare-up. These drugs are usually prescribed by IBD specialists, although your treatment may then be monitored by your GP as part of ‘shared care’.

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