Side Effects of GVHD Treatment

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The drugs used to prevent and treat chronic GVHD have side effects. Most are temporary and end when the drug is discontinued.

The drugs listed below are those used most commonly to prevent and treat GVHD. The side effects listed have been reported in 10 percent or more of people treated with the drug or therapy. Other, rarer side effects have also been reported.  Consult your doctor for details.

8-MOP (see methoxsalen)

8-methoxypsoralen (see methoxsalen)

Abatacept (Orencia®)

  • headache
  • infection
  • nausea
  • infusion reactions, such as chills and fevers

Alemtuzumab (Campath®)

  • infusion reactions: rigors, fever, chills, skin rash
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • low blood cell counts
  • difficulty breathing, cough
  • infections: pneumonia, herpes simplex, sepsis
  • headache, bone and muscle pain
  • high blood pressure, rapid heart rate

Antithymocyte Globulin (ATGAM, Thymoglobulin®) may cause:

  • infusion reactions: fever, chills, low blood pressure, skin rash
  • joint pain
  • headache
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • night sweats
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • low platelet and white blood cell counts
  • infections

Cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®) can cause:

  • kidney problems
  • headaches
  • tremors, muscle cramps
  • increased body hair
  • seizures
  • nausea, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort
  • high blood pressure

Extracorporeal Photopheresis (ECP) can cause:

  • sensitivity to sunlight and other sources of UV light
  • skin redness
  • fever
  • low blood pressure
  • rapid heart rate
  • low red cell and platelet count

Ibrutinib (Imbruvica®) can cause:

  • fatigue
  • bruising
  • rash
  • diarrhea, nausea
  • low platelet count
  • muscle spasms
  • mouth sores
  • pneumonia
  • brittle nails
  • abnormal heart rhythm

Interleukin-2 (IL-2, Proleukin®) may cause:

  • infusion reactions: fever, chills, low blood pressure
  • flu-like symptoms, general aches and pains
  • redness on the face and body
  • rash
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • low blood counts
  • confusion, drowsiness or temporary memory loss
  • fast heart beats
  • low urine output
  • swelling of face, ankles or legs
  • difficulty breathing

Methotrexate (Rheumatrex®) can cause:

  • mouth sores
  • skin redness
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • elevated uric acid
  • kidney problems
  • liver problems
  • low blood counts

Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF, CellCept®)  can cause:

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • bleeding
  • increased risk of infection
  • anemia
  • low calcium and magnesium
  • high potassium
  • cough, breathing issues

Prednisone and Prednisolone can cause:

  • osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)
  • joint deterioration, which may require joint replacement
  • increased risk of infection
  • cataracts
  • weight gain
  • moon face
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • high blood sugar
  • high blood pressure
  • gastric ulcers
  • muscle weakness

Ruxolitinib (Jakafi®) may cause:

  • low blood counts
  • bruising
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • elevated liver enzymes
  • high cholesterol

Sirolimus (Rapamune®) can cause:

  • increased risk of infection
  • increased risk of bleeding
  • high blood sugar
  • swelling 
  • fever
  • low blood counts
  • kidney problems
  • constipation, diarrhea
  • sepsis, infection

      Tacrolimus (Prograf®) can cause:

      • kidney problems
      • headaches
      • tremors
      • nausea, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort
      • high blood sugar
      • high cholesterol
      • high potassium, low magnesium and phosphate

        To learn about side effects of other drugs used to treat GVHD, click here to order BMT InfoNet's free booklet Graft-versus-Host Disease: What to Know, What to Do.

        Next page: Coping with the Stress of GVHD