Cyclosporine

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023 | Last updated: September 2023

Cyclosporine is a prescription drug that may be used to treat adults with severe psoriasis that has not responded to other treatments. Cyclosporine is a strong systemic drug that affects the entire body to treat psoriasis symptoms. It may be used to treat different types of psoriasis, including:1-3

Cyclosporine is sold in the United States under different brand names, including Gengraf®, Sandimmune®, and Neoral®. These medicines are available as a capsule or a liquid to take by mouth.1-3

How does cyclosporine work?

People with psoriasis have an overactive immune system that causes an excessive number of new skin cells to be produced at a rate that is too fast for the older skin cells to die and be shed naturally. Psoriasis plaques are formed by a buildup of older skin cells on the surface of the skin.1-3

Cyclosporine is a type of drug called an immunosuppressant. It works by stopping or reducing the activity of certain immune cells that trigger the production of new skin cells. This causes fewer new skin cells to be produced, which can help to reduce psoriasis plaques.1-3

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of cyclosporine include:1-3

  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Increased hair growth on the face, arms, or back
  • Growth of extra tissue on the gums
  • Acne
  • Flushing
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
  • Burning or tingling in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Cramps
  • Pain or pressure in the face
  • Ear problems
  • Breast enlargement in men
  • Depression
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

Cyclosporine has a boxed warning, the strictest warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has this warning because there is an increased risk of developing skin cancer if you are being treated with cyclosporine and have a history of treatment with:1

Only doctors with experience in managing treatment with systemic immunosuppressive therapy should prescribe cyclosporine. Your doctor should monitor you for signs of infection during treatment with cyclosporine.1,3

These are not all the possible side effects of cyclosporine. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking cyclosporine. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking cyclosporine.

Other things to know

Before starting treatment with cyclosporine, tell your doctor if you have:1-3

  • Low cholesterol
  • Low levels of magnesium in your blood
  • High levels of potassium or uric acid in your blood
  • Any condition that makes it hard for your body to absorb nutrients
  • Liver disease

There is not enough data to know if cyclosporine is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. Before starting treatment with cyclosporine, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. They can help you decide if cyclosporine is right for you.1-3

While taking cyclosporine, you should avoid:1-3

  • Grapefruit
  • Grapefruit juice
  • St. John's wort
  • Drinking alcohol

Cyclosporine should not be used with potassium-sparing water pills (diuretics). You may also need to avoid potassium-rich foods like bananas, raisins, and orange juice. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.1,3

Cyclosporine may make you tired, dizzy, or confused. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this drug affects you.3

Before beginning treatment for psoriasis, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of cyclosporine.

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