Purinethol and Breastfeeding

It is generally recommended that women not breastfeed while taking Purinethol (mercaptopurine). Although no studies have been done to determine whether this drug passes through breast milk or if it would harm a nursing infant, the drug is associated with potentially dangerous side effects, which may pose a risk to a baby whose mother takes it while nursing.

Can Breastfeeding Women Take Purinethol?

Purinethol® (mercaptopurine) is a prescription medication used to treat a certain type of blood and bone marrow cancer called acute lymphoblastic leukemia (also known as acute lymphatic or acute lymphocytic leukemia). At this time, it is unknown if Purinethol passes through breast milk.

More Information on Purinethol and Breastfeeding

Purinethol has not been studied in breastfeeding women. Therefore, it is unknown if the drug passes through breast milk, or if it would harm a nursing infant. Although this lack of information may be frustrating, it should be noted that medications are rarely studied in breastfeeding women, as doing so would usually expose an infant, who will not directly benefit from the medication, to possible risks from the medication.
Many medicines pass through breast milk, and based on the properties of Purinethol, it is expected to pass through breast milk to some extent. Purinethol is associated with potentially serious side effects. Because of the potential risks to a nursing infant, it is generally recommended that women not breastfeed during treatment with this drug.  
It should be noted that this article addresses breastfeeding while taking Purinethol for the treatment of leukemia. Lower doses may be given when the drug is used off-label for other conditions, and these lower doses may be safe for use in women who are nursing. If you are using Purinethol off-label for the treatment of conditions other than leukemia, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, you should talk to your healthcare provider about breastfeeding during treatment.
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