Medications After Organ Transplant

  • Learn everything you can about your medicines. Your physician, transplant nurse coordinator and pharmacist can help. See our transplant medication information sheet. We also provide the medication information sheet in the following languages:
  • Capsules and time release tablets should be swallowed whole and never crushed, chewed or opened - otherwise, a large dose can be absorbed too quickly.
  • Immunosuppressive medications should never be taken with grapefruit juice. In addition to avoiding grapefruit juice, do not eat whole grapefruit or drink fruit juice blends or sodas that contain grapefruit juice.
  • Some medications need to be refrigerated, especially liquid antibiotics. Check the directions on the bottle.
  • Always check with your transplant team before taking any new medicines, even the ones you buy over the counter, including vitamins and herbal remedies.
  • Wear a Medic Alert® (or similar brand) bracelet or pendant that states you are a transplant recipient and you take steroids (if you do), in case you are ever in an accident and someone finds you unconscious.
  • If any medicine changes odor or color, if it gets wet, or if it is soft, sticky, hard or cracked (and it shouldn't be), it could have lost its effectiveness and should be replaced. Talk to your pharmacist about any changes in your medicines.
  • If your insurance company does not require you to use a particular pharmacy, shop around. Prices can vary.
  • Let your insurance company and transplant team know if you are having trouble paying for your medicines.
  • Carry a list of your medicines and their doses in your wallet or purse. Share this list with your other doctors.
  • Try to buy all your medicines from the same pharmacy. Many pharmacies keep a profile on their customers so that they can track whether or not a new drug will cause problems if taken with the patient's other medications.
  • Unwanted hair growth, caused by some medications, can be removed with shaving, waxing or hair removal (depilatory) products.
  • Limit your sun exposure and always wear sunscreen (minimum SPF 30).
  • Learn which over-the-counter medications are safe to take.

Tips about Organizing Your Medications

To prevent your medicine regime from interrupting your daily routine, plan ahead, organize your time and consider the following tips:

  • Use tools to help organize your medicines, such as a pillbox that has individual compartments labeled with the days of the week.
  • If there are no children or grandchildren in the house, clear plastic resealable bags labeled with days of the week and times of the day can help, but they must be kept in a safe place - away from children and pets who may think the contents are snacks.
  • Use an alarm clock, watch or charts to remind you of the times for medicines.
  • Ask your transplant team to help set up your medicine times to fit your schedule.
  • Set up a time each week to organize your medicines for the whole next week.
  • Get into a routine. Take your medications at the same time each day.
  • Keep track of how much medicine you have left. Don't ever run out, even one dose.
  • Mark your calendar so you remember to reorder your medications ahead of time.
  • At first, you may want to have a family member or friend help you sort out and reorder your pills.
  • Keep your medication in a cool, dry place, out of the sun and extreme heat.

Tips on Traveling

  • Always keep extra doses of your medicine with you when you travel in case you are delayed or miss a plane, train or bus.
  • Keep your pharmacy's phone number with you.
  • Never pack your medications in your luggage; always carry them with you or they may get lost or be exposed to temperatures that are too cold or too hot.
  • Mail-order pharmacies can ship your medicines if you are away from home for an extended period of time.
  • Carry a letter (or prescription) from your doctor about your medicines in case you have any problems with customs when traveling overseas. You may be able to fill your prescription in a pharmacy at your travel destination.
  • Prevent infection. Wash your hands often and thoroughly, especially before eating. This is even more important the first few months after your transplant, when you are taking higher doses of anti-rejection medication.

Call the Transplant Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Please direct your medication questions to your transplant coordinator or transplant pharmacist.

Tips about Your Medicines, adapted from and courtesy of, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2004). Partnering With Your Transplant Team: The Patient's Guide to Transplantation. Rockville, MD: Health Resources and Services Administration, Special Programs Bureau, Division of Transplantation.