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Mercaptopurine (6MP)

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What is mercaptopurine (6MP)?

A medicine taken by mouth that is very important for treating leukemia. It destroys cancer cells when they try to grow.

When should I give mercaptopurine (6MP) to my child?

Mercaptopurine works best if given every day it is ordered. Give it the same time every day. It does NOT matter what time of day you choose, but pick a time that works best for you and your family.

Can I give mercaptopurine (6MP) with food or beverages?

Yes. New research shows that it does not matter if the medicine is taken with or without any type of food or drink, even dairy products.

Does it matter if we skip a dose?

Yes! Mercaptopurine needs to be taken every day the doctor tells you to give it! Recent studies show that 33% of relapses (leukemia coming back) were directly related to patients not taking their chemotherapy as ordered.

Talk to your nurse or doctor about what to do if you forget a dose.

How can I keep track of giving medicines?

  • Pick a time that makes taking the medicine easy – a time when you know your child will be at home every day
  • Make a calendar, have your child check off days, make it a game that they help with
  • Set an alarm reminder on your phone
  • If your child has a phone, have them set an alarm, too!
  • Talk to your nurse, doctor, or child life specialist for other creative ways to make taking mercaptopurine successful

What are the common side effects?

  • Skin rash or a change in the skin’s color
  • Low blood counts (e.g. white or red blood count, hemoglobin, platelets, or neutrophils) 1-2 weeks after treatment
  • Increased risk of an infection or bleeding
  • Abnormal liver function tests

What are the less common side effects?

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores

Special Instructions:

  • Take at the same time each day, as prescribed
  • Take mercaptopurine again (a repeated dose) only if vomiting occurs within 30 minutes of taking the medication
  • If vomiting occurs more than once after taking the medication, call your healthcare provider
  • Blood tests will be done to check the blood cell count and liver function
  • The dose may be changed if the white blood cell count is too high or too low
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children and pets
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before becoming pregnant, fathering a child, or breastfeeding. It is important to use a form of birth control while taking this medicine and for several months after treatment is completed.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 1/2019

(757) 668-7000