Cancer Home > Mercaptopurine Side Effects

Some of the possible side effects of mercaptopurine can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This prescription chemotherapy drug can also cause significant problems, such as dangerous infections, bleeding problems, and anemia, which require medical treatment right away. Because side effects are common with this drug, let your healthcare provider know if you experience anything that doesn't seem right during mercaptopurine treatment.

An Introduction to Side Effects of Mercaptopurine

Just like any medicine, mercaptopurine (Purinethol®) can cause side effects. In fact, most people will experience some type of reaction to this drug, and some side effects can be quite significant. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to prevent or lessen reactions to this medicine.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with mercaptopurine. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Serious Mercaptopurine Side Effects

Some side effects of mercaptopurine are potentially serious and should be reported immediately to your healthcare provider. These include but are not limited to:
  • Signs of anemia, such as:
    • Unusual tiredness
    • Weakness
    • Pale skin
    • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools
  • Blood in the urine
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • A change in how much or how often you urinate
  • Inflammation, sores, ulcers, or white patches in the mouth or throat (see Mouth and Gum Problems During Chemotherapy)
  • Persistent or severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • A swollen or distended abdomen (stomach)
  • Upper-right abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • An unexplained rash
    • Hives
    • Itching
    • Unexplained swelling, especially of the mouth, lips, or throat
    • Wheezing
    • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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