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Note: This document contains side effect information about sulfasalazine. Some of the dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Azulfidine.
Common side effects of Azulfidine include: gastric distress, headache, nausea, oligospermia, vomiting, and anorexia. Other side effects include: fever. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.
Applies to sulfasalazine: oral tablet, oral tablet enteric coated
Along with its needed effects, sulfasalazine (the active ingredient contained in Azulfidine) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking sulfasalazine:
Less common or rare
Incidence not known
Some side effects of sulfasalazine may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Less common or rare
Applies to sulfasalazine: compounding powder, oral delayed release tablet, oral tablet
The most common side effects reported were anorexia, headache, nausea, vomiting, gastric distress, elevated temperature, erythema, pruritus, rash, loss of appetite, and reversible oligospermia. Less common side effects included urticaria, fever, Heinz body anemia, hemolytic anemia, and cyanosis. Frequency of side effects increased with daily doses of 4 g or more, or total serum sulfapyridine levels above 50 mcg/mL.
The use of enteric-coated preparations may decrease gastrointestinal side effects.
Very common (10% or more): Nausea (up to 33%), vomiting (up to 33%), gastric distress (about 33%), dyspepsia (13%)
Common (1% to 10%): Abdominal pain, diarrhea, stomatitis
Frequency not reported: Impaired folic acid absorption, impaired digoxin absorption, neutropenic enterocolitis, hemorrhagic colitis, bloody diarrhea, necrotizing pancreatitis
Postmarketing reports: Pseudomembranous colitis, pancreatitis, worsening ulcerative colitis, parotitis
Transverse myelitis developed in 1 patient after receiving sulfasalazine (the active ingredient contained in Azulfidine) for 2 years. All symptoms resolved within 2 months after discontinuing sulfasalazine.
Very common (10% or more): Headache (up to 33%)
Common (1% to 10%): Dizziness, taste disorders, tinnitus
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Convulsions, vertigo
Frequency not reported: Meningitis, neuropathy, transverse myelitis, transient lesions of the posterior spinal column, cauda equina syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, hearing loss, drowsiness, neurotoxicity, dysphasia, acute encephalopathy, monoparesis, cerebrospinal fluid abnormalities, altered taste, peripheral neuritis
Postmarketing reports: Aseptic meningitis, ataxia, encephalopathy, peripheral neuropathy, smell disorders
Hypoglycemia has been reported rarely in patients using sulfonamides.
Very common (10% or more): Anorexia (about 33%)
Rare (less than 0.1%): Hypoglycemia
Postmarketing reports: Folate deficiency, loss of appetite
Diuresis has been reported rarely in patients using sulfonamides.
Infertility appeared to be reversible upon drug discontinuation.
Very common (10% or more): Reversible oligospermia (about 33%)
Common (1% to 10%): Proteinuria
Rare (less than 0.1%): Impotence, diuresis
Frequency not reported: Decreased motility, abnormal sperm penetration (sometimes resulted in infertility), urinary tract infections, urine discoloration
Postmarketing reports: Hematuria, crystalluria
Angioedema was reported during postmarketing experience with the use of products containing or metabolized to mesalamine.
The risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis increased largely with the use of sulfonamides; however, these phenomena were rare as a whole.
Very common (10% or more): Rash (up to 13%)
Common (1% to 10%): Pruritus, urticaria
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Alopecia
Frequency not reported: Toxic epidermal necrolysis (Lyell's syndrome), skin discoloration, erythema multiforme, parapsoriasis varioliformis acuta (Mucha-Haberman syndrome), generalized skin eruptions, petechiae
Postmarketing reports: Angioedema, purpura, epidermal necrolysis (Lyell's syndrome), Stevens-Johnson syndrome, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS), toxic pustuloderma, erythema, exanthema, exfoliative dermatitis, periorbital edema, lichen planus, photosensitivity
Immunoglobulin suppression was slowly reversible and rarely accompanied by clinical findings.
In most cases of sulfasalazine-induced SLE, patients received the drug for greater than 1 year. Patients most commonly developed arthralgias and pleuritic chest pain. Generally, these patients had a positive ANA, anti-DNA antibody titer, and were slow acetylators of sulfonamides. Symptoms typically resolved over several weeks to several months.
At least 1 case of Kawasaki-like syndrome with hepatic function changes was reported during postmarketing experience with the use of products containing or metabolized to mesalamine.
Very common (10% or more): Immunoglobulin suppression (10%)
Frequency not reported: Drug-induced systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Postmarketing reports: Kawasaki-like syndrome with hepatic function changes, induction of autoantibodies
Common (1% to 10%): Abnormal liver function tests
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Elevated liver enzymes
Frequency not reported: Hepatic necrosis
Postmarketing reports: Hepatotoxicity (some cases were fatal), including elevated liver function tests (SGOT/AST, SGPT/ALT, GGT, LDH, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin), jaundice, cholestatic jaundice, cirrhosis, cholestatic hepatitis, cholestasis, possible hepatocellular damage (including liver necrosis and liver failure); Kawasaki-like syndrome with hepatic function changes; fulminant hepatitis; hepatitis; hepatic failure
Hepatitis associated with sulfasalazine often developed 2 to 4 weeks after therapy was initiated, although hypersensitivity hepatitis has been reported after longer periods of therapy. Associated rash usually progressed to desquamation. Liver biopsy has shown necrosis and infiltration with moderate number of inflammatory cells. Noncaseating granulomas have also been seen. Hepatitis generally resolved over several weeks after therapy discontinuation, although some patients progressed to fulminant hepatic failure.
Hepatitis has been reported in patients with sulfasalazine hypersensitivity. Some of these cases were fatal.
Side effects listed as postmarketing reports were reported during postmarketing experience with the use of products containing or metabolized to mesalamine.
Agranulocytosis has generally occurred during the first 1 to 3 months of therapy. Patients often presented with fever and sore throat. A few also presented with a rash. Bone marrow hypoplasia or aplasia was usually confined to the myeloid series, but may be accompanied by erythroid hypoplasia and marrow plasmacytosis. In one review of 62 cases of sulfasalazine-induced agranulocytosis, 6.5% of patients died. Recovery of granulocytes was generally seen within 1 to 2 weeks after drug discontinuation, and leukocyte counts and differential returned to normal in 1 to 3 weeks. Some cases of agranulocytosis were treated with colony stimulating factor, which appeared to increase the time to recovery.
Common (1% to 10%): Hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia, leukopenia
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Thrombocytopenia
Frequency not reported: Red cell aplasia, congenital neutropenia, myelodysplastic syndrome
Postmarketing reports: Pseudomononucleosis, lymphadenopathy, macrocytosis, neutropenia, pancytopenia, agranulocytosis, aplastic anemia, hypoprothrombinemia, methemoglobinemia, megaloblastic (macrocytic) anemia
Common (1% to 10%): Cough
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Dyspnea
Frequency not reported: Pulmonary infiltrates (frequently accompanied by eosinophilia), pneumonitis (with or without eosinophilia), pleuritis, bronchiolitis obliterans, lung toxicity (may mimic Wegener's granulomatosis)
Postmarketing reports: Oropharyngeal pain, fibrosing alveolitis, eosinophilic infiltration, interstitial lung disease
Patients often presented after several weeks or months of therapy with fever, malaise, shortness of breath, and nonproductive cough. Eosinophilic infiltrates have been seen. Respiratory changes generally resolved over a few weeks, however, fatal reactions involving fibrosing alveolitis have been reported.
Common (1% to 10%): Cyanosis
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Vasculitis
Frequency not reported: Tachycardia
Postmarketing reports: Myocarditis, allergic myocarditis, pallor, polyarteritis nodosa, pericarditis
Common (1% to 10%): Insomnia
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Depression
Frequency not reported: Confusion, vivid dreams
Postmarketing reports: Hallucinations
Common (1% to 10%): Arthralgia
Frequency not reported: Myopathy, rhabdomyolysis, Sjogren's syndrome
Postmarketing reports: Systemic lupus erythematosus
Common (1% to 10%): Fever
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Facial edema
Frequency not reported: Malaise, false positive c-ANCAs, elevated temperature, petechiae and drug fever, LE phenomenon
Postmarketing reports: Yellow discoloration of skin and body fluids
Common (1% to 10%): Conjunctival and scleral injection
Frequency not reported: Diplopia, blurred vision, corneal damage
The following side effects have been reported as hypersensitivity reactions: erythema multiforme (Stevens-Johnson syndrome), exfoliative dermatitis, epidermal necrolysis (Lyell's syndrome) with corneal damage, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS), anaphylaxis, serum sickness syndrome, pneumonitis (with or without eosinophilia), vasculitis, fibrosing alveolitis, pleuritis, pericarditis (with or without tamponade), allergic myocarditis, polyarteritis nodosa, lupus erythematosus-like syndrome, hepatitis and hepatic necrosis (with or without immune complexes), fulminant hepatitis (sometimes leading to liver transplantation), parapsoriasis varioliformis acuta (Mucha-Haberman syndrome), rhabdomyolysis, photosensitization, arthralgia, periorbital edema, conjunctival and scleral injection, alopecia, and interstitial lung disease.
Anaphylaxis was reported during postmarketing experience with the use of products containing or metabolized to mesalamine.
Frequency not reported: Hypersensitivity reactions, drug-induced rash, lupus erythematosus-like syndrome, anaphylactoid reactions
Postmarketing reports: Anaphylaxis, serum sickness
Frequency not reported: Toxic nephrosis with oliguria and anuria, nephritis, hemolytic uremic syndrome, bilateral renal calculi composed of acetylsulfapyridine, proteinase 3-ANCA positive necrotizing glomerulonephritis
Postmarketing reports: Nephrolithiasis, nephrotic syndrome, interstitial nephritis
At least 1 patient developed bilateral renal calculi composed of acetylsulfapyridine, a metabolite of sulfasalazine.
Rare (less than 0.1%): Goiter production
Goiter production has been reported rarely in patients using sulfonamides.
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