- Prevent the rejection of transplanted organs and tissues (e.g., bone marrow, heart, kidney, liver)
- Treat autoimmune diseases or diseases that are most likely of autoimmune origin (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, psoriasis, vitiligo, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, Crohn's disease, Behcet's Disease, pemphigus, and ulcerative colitis).
- Treat some other non-autoimmune inflammatory diseases (e.g., long term allergic asthma control).
A common side-effect of many immunosuppressive drugs is immunodeficiency, because the majority of them act non-selectively, resulting in increased susceptibility to infections and decreased cancer immunosurveillance. There are also other side-effects, such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, peptic ulcers, lipodystrophy, moon face, liver and kidney injury. The immunosuppressive drugs also interact with other medicines and affect their metabolism and action. Actual or suspected immunosuppressive agents can be evaluated in terms of their effects on lymphocyte subpopulations in tissues using immunohistochemistry.
Immunosuppressive drugs can be classified into five groups:
- drugs acting on immunophilins
- other drugs.