In recent years, transplantation has become increasingly successful through the development of drugs that alter the transplant patient’s immune system. The immune system is the body's defense against foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. Unfortunately, the immune system cannot tell the difference between a harmful invader and a transplanted pancreas and will try to reject it. Rejection is dangerous because it can permanently damage the transplanted pancreas. That is why it is necessary for our patients to take anti-rejection medications as part of their long-term therapy.
The anti-rejection medications (also called immunosuppressants) protect the transplanted pancreas by slowing down the immune system. There are a variety of anti-rejection medications available and each works in a different way to suppress the body’s immune response. Our transplant team will determine which combination of medications is right for each individual patient and may alter a medication regimen after the transplant to improve rejection prevention or reduce side effects.
It is necessary for all patients to take their immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives following a transplant. A successful pancreas transplant can be undermined very quickly by the failure of patients to take their medications appropriately and responsibly.
Beyond the need for immunosuppressants, it is necessary for our patients to take antibiotics to prevent infection for the first six months following the transplant. Depending on the patient’s state of health prior to the transplant, many patients often need other medications following the transplant for ailments such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The transplant team may make alterations in your medical regimen after the transplant so that all of your medications work better together and reduce the risk for side effects and drug interactions.
Patients should talk to their physician, pharmacist, transplant nurse, and/or coordinator to understand fully:
The name and purpose of each medication.
When to take each medication.
How to take each medication.
How long to continue taking each medication.
Principal side effects of each medication.
What to do if you forget to take a dose.
When to order more medication so it doesn't run out.