CellCept Is a Lupus Medication

The Effects and Adverse Effects of CellCept

Lupus nephritis attacks the kidneys.
Lupus nephritis attacks the kidneys. Science Picture Co/Getty Images

CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil, or MMF) is an immunosuppressant often used in patients with lupus nephritis (in which the disease attacks the kidneys). Immunosuppressives are used in the treatment of lupus because they are potent drugs and help control disease activity in major organ and they may reduce or eliminate the need for steroids. As with all immunosuppressives, CellCept is available only by prescription.

It should be noted that mycophenolate mofetil, or MMF, has been shown to significantly reduce steroid dosage for patients with lupus nephritis or treatment-resistant systemic lupus erythematosus, This medication is considered a first-line therapy for lupus nephritis, often replacing cyclophosphamide.

How CellCept Works

As an immunosuppressive, CellCept works by weakening the body's immune system so it will not produce auto-antibodies. The immune system of lupus patients produces auto-antibodies at a rapid rate, which in turn attack the immune system. When this happens, victims can suffer inflammation (the primary feature of lupus), pain, and tissue damage.

Though CellCept can be a great drug therapy for some patients, there are certain people who shouldn’t take or should check with their doctor before taking CellCept. These people include:

  • Pregnant and nursing mothers
  • Those planning to have children (both women and men)
  • Those taking acetazolamide, acyclovir, antibiotics; azathioprine, chlorothiazide, cimetidine, cholestyramine, colestipol, ethacrynic acid, furosemide, ganciclovir, isoproterenol, meperidine, morphine, oral contraceptives, phenytoin, probenecid, procainamide, quinine, salicylate pain relievers, choline magnesium trisalicylate, choline salicylate, diflunisal, magnesium salicylate and salsalate, and theophylline.
  • Those who suffer from liver or kidney disease
  • Those who suffer from Lsech-Nyhan or Keeley-Seegmiller Syndrome

Possible Adverse Effects of CellCept

Here are some things that can happen while on CellCept:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Pain in the back, muscles or joints

As always, contact your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrollably shaking hands
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Headache
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Black and tarry stools
  • Red blood in stools
  • Bloody vomit
  • Vomiting material that looks like coffee grounds
  • Loose, floppy muscles
  • White patches in mouth or throat
  • Swelling of gums
  • Vision changes
  • Rash

Other considerations for taking CellCept include some of the increased risks associated with the drug. On Oct. 29, 2007, Roche, which manufactures CellCept, and the FDA notified healthcare providers that use of MMF is associated with increased risk of first trimester pregnancy loss and increased risk of congenital malformations, especially external ear and facial abnormalities including cleft lip and palate, and anomalies of the distal limbs, heart, esophagus, and kidney.


Lupus Foundation of America statement on Results for Clinical Study of CellCept released by Aspreva Pharmaceutical Company. Lupus Foundation of America. June 27, 2007.

MedlinePlus Drug Info. MedlinePlus.com. Revised Nov. 1, 2007.

Chat Transcript - Dr. Joan Merrill. Lupus Foundation of America, Dec. 6, 2006

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