4.5 (1)
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More about Leflunomide

What are leflunomide tablets?

LEFLUNOMIDE (Arava®) is a medication that reduces inflammation and swelling due to rheumatoid arthritis. The response of the immune system may contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Leflunomide affects this system and is able to slow down the progression of the disease, especially in the affected joints. Leflunomide helps to treat all stages of adult rheumatoid arthritis. Leflunomide can be used with some of the other medications that are used to treat the inflammation and pain of this condition (for example, aspirin, other salicylates, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen).

What should I tell my health care provider before I take this medicine?

They need to know if you have, or have ever had, any of these conditions:

• an alcohol problem
• anemia or other blood disorders
• cancer or cancer treatments (radiation therapy)
• an immune deficiency (natural or due to cancer, cancer chemotherapy, infection with the HIV virus or AIDS, radiation, or steroid therapy)
• fever or infection
• high blood pressure
• kidney disease
• liver disease
• lung disease or breathing problems
• an unusual or allergic reaction to leflunomide, other medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives
• pregnant or trying to get pregnant
• breast-feeding

How should I use this medicine?

Take leflunomide tablets by mouth. Follow the directions on the prescription label. Swallow the tablets with a drink of water. You can take leflunomide with food or milk. Take your doses at the same time every day. Do not take your medicine more often than directed. Continue to take your medicine even if you feel better. Do not stop taking your medicine unless your prescriber or health care professional tells you to discontinue taking it.

Contact your pediatrician or health care professional regarding the use of this medicine in children. Special care may be needed.

What if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, take only that dose. Do not take double or extra doses.

What drug(s) may interact with leflunomide?

• some anti-inflammatory medicines
• azathioprine
• charcoal
• cholestyramine
• cyclosporine
• doxercalciferol
• fosphenytoin
• isoniazid
• itraconazole
• ketoconazole
• methotrexate
• phenytoin
• ramelteon
• rifampin
• some vaccines
• sulfasalazine
• tacrine
• troglitazone, and some other medicines for diabetes
• warfarin

Tell your prescriber or health care professional about all other medicines you are taking, including non-prescription medicines, nutritional supplements, or herbal products. Also tell your prescriber or health care professional if you are a frequent user of drinks with caffeine or alcohol, if you smoke, or if you use illegal drugs. These may affect the way your medicine works. Check with your health care professional before stopping or starting any of your medicines.

What side effects may I notice from receiving leflunomide?

Side effects you should report to your prescriber or health care professional as soon as possible:

• dark yellow or brown urine
• diarrhea, especially if severe or does not stop
• difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• dizziness
• fever or chills, cough or sore throat
• increases in blood pressure, especially if you are being treated for high blood pressure
• numbness, pain, or tingling in an arm, hand, leg, or foot
• pain in the stomach or abdomen
• skin rash or hives
• ulcers of the mouth or difficulty or pain on swallowing
• unusual bleeding or bruising, pinpoint red spots on the skin, nose bleeds or bleeding gums
• unusual tiredness or weakness
• vomiting
• yellowing of eyes or skin 

Side effects that do usually do not require medical attention (report to your prescriber or health care professional if they continue or are bothersome):

• change in the taste of foods or drinks
• changes in the appearance of the fingernails or toenails
• hair loss (reversible)
• headache
• itching of the skin
• loss of appetite
• nausea, indigestion, or vomiting
• weight loss
• worsening of joint pain

What should I watch for while taking leflunomide?

Visit your prescriber or health care professional for checks on your progress. A few side effects occur commonly with leflunomide. They include diarrhea, abdominal pain or nausea, rash, changes in hair texture or growth. In some persons, liver function can be altered. Sometimes the side effects can be more serious. Your prescriber or health care professional will be observing you closely and will monitor blood tests related to your medicine. You will need to have regular tests to see if your liver is working properly. The side effects of leflunomide can continue after you finish your treatment; report side effects promptly.

If you are a woman who has the potential to become pregnant, it is important that you discuss birth control options with your prescriber or health care professional prior to taking leflunomide. You must not be pregnant and must be using a reliable form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Leflunomide has the potential to harm an unborn baby. If you think that you might be pregnant at any time during your treatment with leflunomide, you should see your health care provider at once.

While you are taking medications for rheumatoid arthritis you might be more susceptible to infection. Try to avoid people with colds, flu, and bronchitis. Do not have any vaccinations without your doctor's approval.

Call your health care professional for advice if you get a fever, chills or sore throat, do not treat yourself.

If you are going to have surgery tell your doctor or dentist that you are taking leflunomide.

Alcoholic drinks can make you more dizzy and increase possible damage to your liver. Avoid alcoholic drinks while taking leflunomide.

Where can I keep my medicine?

Keep out of the reach of children in a container that small children cannot open.

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Medicine containing Arava

Medicine containing Leflunomide

This page uses publicly available data from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services; NLM is not responsible for the page and product and does not endorse or recommend this or any other product.

Reviews for Leflunomide

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kcginger is a member of the Pharmacy Reviewer forum
Total Posts: 385
Reputation: 1497
User Title: Honorable member
Arava for Rheumatoid Arthritis for Four Years

I was already on several other medications for my Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, I still had problems with inflammation in my knees, I kinda walked like Frankenstein because my knees were so stiff. My doctor was hesitant to prescribe leflunomide (Arava), insisting that it could cause severe diarrhea and other problems such as liver damage, and birth defects should I become pregnant. However, I was already doing blood tests every three months to check my liver (because of my other meds), so I convinced my doctor to write a prescription. I have taken Arava for about four years. I have never had a single side effect from it. Liver enzymes always good and never any diarrhea. My doctor was quite surprised. Unfortunately, I still have quite a bit of pain in my knees because of damage caused by the arthritis, but the Arava decreased the inflammation by about 85 to 90% in about three or four weeks. Because of the possible side effects, in addition to the blood test for liver enzymes, I also have a CBC (complete blood count) every three or four months.

A couple of other things I wanted to mention is that the half-life of Arava is one to four weeks (average is 2 weeks). This means that it stays in one's system for a very, very long time. In fact, I have been told it may take more than a year or even two years to completely leave your system. There is a procedure with another drug (cholestyramine) to flush the leflunomide from your system if necessary.

The other important detail is that leflunomide (Arava) can cause birth defects. Before beginning treatment with Arava, I had to have a pregnancy test. I also have to use two forms of reliable birth control before starting leflunomide, while taking it, and after stopping it until I have finished the procedure with cholestyramine that flushes leflunomide from the body and then have two blood tests that show the level of leflunomide in my blood is gone.

Additional Information

How long have you taken this medicine for?
More than 2 years
(Updated: January 30, 2014)
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