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People who have a type of cancer called acute lymphatic leukemia may benefit from mercaptopurine. This chemotherapy drug comes as a tablet that is taken once daily. The dosage will depend on your weight, how you respond to the drug, and other factors. Most people who take this medicine will develop some type of side effect, such as low blood cell counts.

What Is Mercaptopurine?

Mercaptopurine (Purinethol®) is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It is normally used in combination with other treatments. Acute lymphatic leukemia is also sometimes called acute lymphocytic or acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  
Mercaptopurine belongs to a group of medicines called purine analogs. The active ingredient in the medication is mercaptopurine. Healthcare providers may also refer to it as 6-mercaptopurine or simply 6-MP.
(Click What Is Mercaptopurine Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Are There Side Effects?

Just like any chemotherapy medicine, mercaptopurine can cause side effects, some of which can be significant and potentially serious. In fact, many people will experience some type of side effect during treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to prevent or lessen reactions to this drug.
Common side effects of mercaptopurine include but are not limited to:
  • Low white blood cell counts
  • Low red blood cell counts (anemia)
  • Low platelet counts.
(Click Mercaptopurine Side Effects to learn more, including potentially serious side effects you should report immediately to your healthcare provider.)
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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