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If you’ve had a certain kind of organ transplant, your doctor might suggest CellCept as a treatment option.

CellCept is a prescription drug used to help prevent organ rejection* in adults and some children after the following kinds of transplants:

The active ingredient in CellCept is mycophenolate. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.) The drug comes in three forms that are swallowed:

  • capsules
  • tablets
  • liquid suspension (a kind of liquid mixture)

CellCept also comes as a liquid solution that’s given as an intravenous (IV) infusion (an injection into a vein given over a period of time). You’ll receive the infusion at your doctor’s office or another healthcare facility.

If you and your doctor decide CellCept is safe and effective for you, you’ll likely take it long term.

For more information about CellCept, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article about the drug.

Like other drugs, CellCept can cause mild to serious side effects. Keep reading to learn more.

* Organ rejection occurs when the immune system attacks a transplanted organ.

Some people may experience mild to serious side effects during their CellCept treatment. Examples of CellCept’s commonly reported side effects include:

Some people may experience mild side effects while using CellCept. Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with CellCept include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And do not stop using CellCept unless your doctor recommends it.

CellCept may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the drug’s prescribing information for details.

In rare cases, it’s possible to have serious side effects from CellCept. Serious side effects that have been reported with CellCept include:

If you develop serious side effects during your CellCept treatment, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

* CellCept has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
CellCept has a boxed warning for this side effect. To learn more, see “Pregnancy while using CellCept” under the “Warnings for CellCept” section below.
‡ To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

Note: After the FDA approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with CellCept, visit MedWatch.

CellCept is used to help prevent organ rejection* in children ages 3 months and older. It can be used after a liver, kidney, or heart transplant.

Side effects in children using CellCept are similar to those seen in adults. But in CellCept studies, certain side effects were more common in children than in adults. These include:

To learn more about possible side effects your child may have while using CellCept, talk with their doctor.

* Organ rejection occurs when the immune system attacks a transplanted organ.

Get answers to some frequently asked questions about CellCept’s side effects.

Can CellCept cause long-term side effects?

It’s possible. Certain side effects may start during treatment and continue for an extended time. They may start after you’ve been using the drug for a while or after you end your treatment.

Examples of long-term side effects reported in CellCept studies include:

  • depression
  • risk of cancer*
  • risk of serious infections*
  • risk of pregnancy complications, including problems with fetal development (commonly known as birth defects) and pregnancy loss†

If you have other questions about possible long-term side effects from CellCept, talk with your doctor.

* CellCept has a boxed warning for this side effect. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
CellCept has a boxed warning for this side effect. To learn more, see “Pregnancy while using CellCept” under the “Warnings for CellCept” section below.

Does the 500-mg CellCept tablet cause different side effects than the other forms of the drug?

In some cases, it’s possible.

In CellCept studies, people taking the 500-milligram (mg) tablets had the same side effects as people taking the capsules or liquid suspension (a kind of liquid mixture).

In studies, people who received CellCept through an intravenous (IV) infusion generally had the same side effects as people who took the forms that are swallowed. (An IV infusion is an injection into a vein given over a period of time.) In addition, the IV infusion form can cause infusion reactions, such as blood clots or swollen veins.

To learn more about side effects of the different CellCept forms, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Is hair loss a side effect of CellCept?

No, CellCept should not cause hair loss. This wasn’t reported as a side effect in CellCept studies.

But other drugs prescribed to help prevent organ rejection* may cause hair loss. For example, tacrolimus (Prograf) is commonly prescribed with CellCept to help prevent organ rejection. Hair loss was a rare side effect seen in studies of Prograf. So, if you take CellCept with Prograf, you may experience hair loss from Prograf.

If you have concerns about hair loss during your CellCept treatment, talk with your doctor.

* Organ rejection occurs when the immune system attacks a transplanted organ.

Will CellCept cause weight gain?

It’s possible. Weight gain wasn’t reported as a side effect in CellCept studies. But CellCept can cause swelling in your legs, feet, or ankles. This is due to fluid buildup in these parts of your body, which may appear as weight gain.

It’s important to note that sudden weight gain can be a symptom of organ rejection, which CellCept is used to help prevent. Other symptoms of organ rejection can include:

If you’re concerned about weight gain during your CellCept treatment, talk with your doctor. But if you have sudden weight gain or other symptoms of organ rejection, let your doctor know right away. They may have you go to the hospital for tests to determine whether you’re experiencing organ rejection.

If your symptoms seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Learn more about some of the side effects CellCept may cause.

Risk of cancer

CellCept has a boxed warning about the risk of cancer. Boxed warnings are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Using CellCept can increase your risk of certain kinds of cancer, including lymphoma (cancer that affects certain white blood cells) and skin cancer.

Cancer was a rare but serious side effect reported in CellCept studies. Symptoms of these kinds of cancer may include:

What might help

To reduce your risk of skin cancer during your CellCept treatment, you should limit the time you spend in the sun. When you do spend time outdoors, it’s important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF). You should also wear clothing that protects your skin, such as a long-sleeved shirt and a hat.

Tell your doctor right away if you have symptoms of cancer during your CellCept treatment. They’ll likely examine you and order certain tests to determine whether to make a diagnosis of cancer.

Risk of serious infections

Using medications that weaken your immune system, such as CellCept, can increase the risk of developing serious infections. In fact, CellCept has a boxed warning for this risk.

You have an increased risk of serious infection if you take higher doses of CellCept or take CellCept with other drugs that weaken your immune system. These infections can be bacterial, viral, or fungal. They can lead to serious complications that may result in hospitalization and can even be fatal.

Serious infections that have been reported by people using CellCept include:

Symptoms of a serious infection may vary depending on the type of infection. But symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • skin rash
  • muscle aches
  • white patches in your mouth or throat

What might help

Let your doctor know right away if you have symptoms of an infection. They can order tests to determine whether you have an infection and which kind it is. If your doctor confirms you have an infection, they’ll prescribe medication to treat it. They may also lower your CellCept dosage or have you temporarily stop using the medication until your infection has gone away.

Neutropenia

Some people may experience neutropenia during their CellCept treatment. With neutropenia, you have low levels of neutrophils (a kind of white blood cell that helps your body fight infections).

Neutropenia was a side effect seen in CellCept studies, but it wasn’t common. Neutropenia is more likely to happen during the first 6 months of your CellCept treatment, though it can occur at any time while you’re using this medication.

Neutropenia doesn’t cause symptoms, but it increases your risk of infection. Symptoms of infection may vary based on the type of infection you have. But examples of symptoms include:

What might help

Your doctor will likely monitor your blood cell levels, including neutrophils, weekly during your first month of CellCept treatment. They’ll then check them twice per month during the second and third months of treatment. After that, they’ll check your blood cell level once per month for the rest of your first year of treatment.

If you develop neutropenia during your CellCept treatment, your doctor may lower your CellCept dosage or have you temporarily stop using CellCept.

Be sure to let your doctor know immediately if you develop symptoms of infection. They’ll do tests to determine whether you have an infection and if needed, they’ll treat the infection.

Anemia

Using CellCept can cause anemia (low level of red blood cells). Red blood cells help carry oxygen to your organs.

Anemia was a common side effect reported in CellCept studies. Symptoms of anemia can include:

What might help

Your doctor will likely check your red blood cell level regularly during your CellCept treatment. If your level becomes low, they’ll provide treatment to raise it.

Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of anemia during your CellCept treatment. They’ll do blood tests to check your red blood cell level. If your doctor confirms that it’s low, they’ll likely recommend treatment with vitamins or supplements that can help your body make more red blood cells. Examples include:

You can also eat foods rich in these nutrients to reduce your risk of anemia or to help increase your red blood cell level. Examples of these foods include:

  • lentils
  • spinach
  • seafood
  • meat
  • eggs

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, CellCept can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Symptoms can be mild to serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
  • swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest a treatment to manage your symptoms. Examples include:

  • an antihistamine that you swallow, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
  • a product you apply to your skin, such as hydrocortisone cream

If your doctor confirms you’ve had a mild allergic reaction to CellCept, they’ll decide whether you should continue your treatment.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to CellCept, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your CellCept treatment, consider taking notes on any side effects you’re having. You can then share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things such as:

  • what dose of the drug you were taking when you had the side effect
  • how soon you had the side effect after starting that dose
  • what your symptoms were
  • how your symptoms affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help them learn more about how CellCept affects you. They can then use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

CellCept comes with several warnings, including three boxed warnings. See below to learn more.

Boxed warnings

CellCept has boxed warnings about the risks of cancer and of serious infection. This drug also has a boxed warning about the risk of pregnancy complications, including problems with fetal development (commonly known as birth defects) and pregnancy loss. Boxed warnings are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Risk of cancer. CellCept can increase your risk of certain kinds of cancer, including lymphoma (cancer that affects certain white blood cells) and skin cancer.

Risk of serious infections. CellCept can raise your risk of developing serious infections. These can be viral, bacterial, or fungal. In some cases, these infections can lead to hospitalization or even be fatal.

Risk of pregnancy complications. CellCept can cause fetal development problems and pregnancy loss if used during pregnancy. The risk of pregnancy loss is higher during the first 3 months of pregnancy.

To learn more about the risk of cancer and risk of serious infections, see the “Side effects explained” section above. For more information about risk of pregnancy complications, see the “Pregnancy while using CellCept” section below.

Other warnings

CellCept may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions. These are known as drug-condition interactions. Other factors may also affect whether CellCept is a good treatment option for you.

Talk with your doctor about your health history before starting CellCept. Factors to consider include those described below.

Phenylketonuria. The liquid suspension form of CellCept contains phenylalanine, which is an ingredient in aspartame. If you have phenylketonuria (PKU) or are sensitive to aspartame, you should not use the liquid suspension form. Instead, talk with your doctor about whether other forms of CellCept or other treatment options would be better options for you.

Stomach problems. CellCept can cause serious stomach problems, such as bleeding, ulcers, or perforation. If you already have stomach problems, CellCept may worsen them. Before you start CellCept treatment, let your doctor know if you’ve had stomach problems before. They’ll decide whether this medication is safe for you.

HGPRT enzyme deficiency. Let your doctor know if you have a deficiency in an enzyme called hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl-transferase (HGPRT). Using CellCept if you have this condition can cause a buildup of uric acid in your body. This can result in issues such as gout or kidney problems.

Due to this risk, your doctor will likely not prescribe CellCept if you have an HGRPT enzyme deficiency. Instead, they’ll recommend a different treatment to help prevent organ rejection.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to CellCept or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe CellCept. Ask them what other medications may be better options for you.

Semen donation. You should not donate semen during your CellCept treatment or for at least 90 days after you stop using this medication. If you have questions, talk with your doctor.

Blood donation. You should not donate blood during your CellCept treatment or for at least 6 weeks after your last dose. If you have questions, talk with your doctor.

Alcohol and CellCept

There is no known interaction between alcohol and CellCept. But your doctor may recommend that you limit or avoid drinking alcohol after your organ transplant. This is because alcohol can cause health problems that may affect your transplanted organ. These can include high blood pressure and liver damage.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much (if any) is safe to consume after your organ transplant.

Pregnancy while using CellCept

It’s not safe to take CellCept during pregnancy. CellCept has a boxed warning for the risk of pregnancy complications, including problems with fetal development (commonly known as birth defects) and pregnancy loss. The risk of pregnancy loss is highest during the first 3 months of pregnancy.

Due to the risk of complications, doctors will not prescribe CellCept to someone who’s pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If you can become pregnant, your doctor will likely have you take a pregnancy test before you start CellCept treatment. They’ll prescribe this medication only if your test is negative. They’ll also have you take another pregnancy test 8 to 10 days after you start using CellCept and then regularly during your treatment.

Your doctor will also discuss the use of birth control if you or your partner can become pregnant. You’ll need to use birth control during your CellCept treatment and for at least 6 weeks after your last dose.

Let your doctor know immediately if you become pregnant during your CellCept treatment. They’ll have you stop using CellCept and switch to a different treatment that’s safe to take during pregnancy.

Your doctor may also talk with you about enrolling in the Mycophenolate REMS pregnancy registry. (Mycophenolate is the active drug in CellCept.) A pregnancy registry helps researchers and doctors gather information about the safety of certain drugs if they’re taken during pregnancy. To learn more, talk with your doctor, call 800-617-8191, or visit the registry website.

Breastfeeding while using CellCept

It’s not known whether it’s safe to use CellCept while breastfeeding. This is because it’s not known whether the drug passes into breast milk or the effect it could have on a child who’s breastfed.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to do so, talk with your doctor before starting CellCept treatment.

Like all medications, CellCept may cause some mild or serious side effects. Talking with your doctor can help you learn what to expect from this medication before you start treatment. Your doctor can also recommend ways to help you mange any side effects if they occur.

Examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • Can CellCept cause anxiety?
  • Does my risk of anemia depend on the dosage I take?
  • How do the side effects of CellCept compare with those of tacrolimus (Prograf)?
  • Is my risk of depression higher when I first start treatment?
  • Does my age affect my risk of side effects from CellCept?

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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.