Not taking medicines at the right time or the correct dose is a main reason for transplant failure. It's useful to use the diary you will have been given to help you keep on track. It's also useful to keep an eye on the amount of drugs you have in stock to ensure you don't suddenly run out and then it becomes an emergency situation. It's helpful to always have a few weeks supply as a back up.
You will most certainly be prescribed immunosuppressant medication and your doctors will prescribe which are most suitable for you. These medications will be necessary for life and will help prevent your immune system destroying your transplanted organ/s. Your body cannot determine the difference between a transplanted organ or an infection. There are various immunosuppressant drugs and you may be prescribed a combination of several drugs e.g. Tacrolimus (Progaf), Mycophenolate Mofetil, Cyclosporin, Prednisolone.
Unfortunately immunosuppressant drugs do have side effects and your transplant team will monitor you closely for these e.g. high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, decrease in kidney function, headaches, upset stomachs, shakes and muscle cramps, hair loss, gout. It can be useful to record any side effects in your transplant diary or if you are concerned contact your centre for advice. Many of the side effects are managed carefully by your team and you may be prescribed further drugs to help counteract these.
There is also an increased risk of certain cancers with immunosuppressant drugs, especially skin cancer so it's important to advise the team should you have any concerns over freckles or moles etc and also to take precautions in the sun. It is advisable to wear high factor sun cream, a hat and cover up and avoid using sun beds.
Alongside immunosuppression drugs and drugs to manage side effects, you may be prescribed preventative drugs too e.g lung transplant patients may be prescribed ongoing anti-viral and anti-biotic treatment. You may feel there are a huge quantity of drugs to cope with, but your team will help you and monitor you closely and your transplant diary can help you keep track of your doses and side effects. Despite the amount of medication you may be prescribed, it soon becomes second nature and easy to manage your drug regime. Many patients find daily or weekly tablet organisers helpful (check with your centre first as some tablets may need to remain in their foils until use) and some find using a phone alarm as a reminder it's medication time useful.