What are the possible risks and side-effects of leflunomide?
The most common side-effects of leflunomide are:
- feeling sick (nausea), stomach pain or diarrhoea
- weight loss
- headaches or dizziness
- weakness or pins and needles
- dry skin or a rash
- a slight rise in blood pressure.
Hair loss is a rare, and usually minor, side-effect.
Leflunomide can affect the blood count by reducing the number of blood cells you make, which can make you more likely to pick up infections. It can also affect the liver. You'll have regular blood tests to check for early signs of these side-effects.
What should I do if I experience side-effects?
Tell your doctor or rheumatology nurse straight away if you develop any signs of infection (such as a sore throat or fever) or have unexplained bruising or bleeding, breathlessness, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) or any other new symptoms that concern you.
You should also see your doctor if you develop chickenpox or shingles or come into contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles. These illnesses can be severe if you're on leflunomide. You may need antiviral treatment, and your leflunomide may be stopped until you're better.
If you have severe side-effects, your doctor may suggest having a wash-out treatment which will help remove the leflunomide from your body more quickly.
Reducing the risk of infection
- Try to avoid close contact with people with severe active infections.
- For advice on avoiding infection from food, visit the NHS Choices Food Poisoning website.