Anti-rejection Drugs

Side effects

Side effects

Like most medications, anti-rejection drugs (also known as immunosuppressants) can cause side effects. Each transplant recipient is prescribed an anti-rejection therapy that balances preventing organ rejection with side effects. However, even at low doses, it is still possible to experience unwanted side effects.

Reporting of side effects: If you get any side effects with your anti-rejection medicine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or a member of your transplant team. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. Patients in the UK can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects you can help provide more information on the safety of medicines.

Watch these transplant recipients explain their perspective on taking anti-rejection medications.


  • Video transcript

    To everyone else that thinks they are cured by having a transplant, my advice would be to sit back, take 2 minutes, look at the scar you have got, and think about what you went through to get that scar, what someone else went through to give you a better chance of life, and know that a couple of tablets in the morning is going to keep you healthy for the rest of your life. To put yourself through the whole pain again of not taking your tablets, put yourself in hospital, going through pain and having the kidney again. It's just not worth it.

    I think it’s a nuisance to have to take these, all these medications, but on the other hand I have to do it, so as you said: I am very grateful, thankful to have a new life.

    It's such a wonderful gift, and it is our responsibility to make sure we value that, and that we take the drugs every day.

    When I forget or don't take my pills I can lose my new heart and I don't want that, to lose it. I prove to my donor, I say ""you gave me a new chance in life, why should I forget to take my pills now?" I have a very good life. I can do everything that I want. I must do one thing in my life and that's to take my pills, in the morning and in the evening. No more, no less.

    We are our own healthcare managers, and I think it’s very important to take the pills everyday, don’t forget this because we have to protect our wonderful gift.

  • How to cope with side effects

    You should never stop taking your prescribed medications or change the dose without talking to a member of your transplant team first. If you are concerned by any side effects, speak to your transplant team to see what can be done to help.

    A healthy lifestyle can help to reduce certain side effects of anti-rejection drugs, such as the risk of developing diabetes. You may also be prescribed additional medications to help treat side effects of the anti-rejection drugs, for example high blood pressure (hypertension) and infection.

  • Side effects

    Some common side effects of anti-rejection drugs which can impact on day-to-day life are listed below. Not all anti-rejection medications have the same side effects, not everyone will experience them and, if they do, the severity will differ in each person.

    • Diabetes
    • Diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
    • Headaches
    • High blood pressure (hypertension)
    • Increased hair growth
    • Kidney problems
    • Psychiatric effects, such as mood changes
    • Trembling or shaking
    • Overgrowth of gum tissue
    • Thinning of bones (osteoporosis), particularly in the elderly

    In addition to these common side effects, treatment with anti-rejection drugs may increase the risk of developing infections and cancers.

    For further information about possible side effects, refer to the product information leaflet included with your medication.

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