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Last reviewed on RxList: 11/3/2020
Rapamune Side Effects Center

What Is Rapamune?

Rapamune (sirolimus) is an immunosuppressive agent used to prevent your body from rejecting a transplanted kidney. Rapamune is sometimes used in a combination treatment with cyclosporine and a steroid medicine such as prednisone.

What Are Side Effects of Rapamune?

Common side effects of Rapamune include:

Tell your doctor if you have unlikely but serious side effects of Rapamune including:

  • muscle pain or cramps,
  • bone pain,
  • increased thirst or hunger,
  • frequent urination,
  • vision changes,
  • hearing problems (e.g., hearing loss, ringing in the ears),
  • unusual tiredness or weakness,
  • fast/slow/irregular heartbeat,
  • easy bruising or bleeding,
  • mental/mood changes,
  • swelling ankles or feet,
  • severe headache,
  • dizziness,
  • stomach or abdominal pain, or
  • missed/heavy/painful periods.

Dosage for Rapamune

Rapamune is taken orally once daily, and the initial dose should be given as soon as possible after transplantation. Dose depends on the patient's immunologic risk, among other factors.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Rapamune?

Rapamune may interact with amphotericin B, bromocriptine, cimetidine, cisapride, danazol, metoclopramide, rifampin, rifabutin, rifapentine, St. John's wort, tacrolimus, ACE inhibitors, antibiotics, antifungal medications, calcium channel blockers, or HIV medicines. Tell your doctor all medications you are taking.

Rapamune During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Rapamune is not recommended for use during pregnancy. It is recommended that men and women using this medication use two forms of birth control (e.g., condoms and birth control pills) before starting this medication, while taking this medication, and for 12 weeks after stopping this medication. This drug may pass into breast milk and could have undesirable effects on a nursing infant. Breastfeeding is not recommended while using this drug.

Additional Information

Our Rapamune (sirolimus) Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


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Sirolimus may cause a serious brain infection that can lead to disability or death. Call your doctor right away if you have any change in your mental state, decreased vision, weakness on one side of your body, or problems with speech or walking. These symptoms may start gradually and get worse quickly.

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives, rash, or peeling skin; wheezing, difficulty breathing, chest pain or tightness; feeling like you might pass out; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • redness, oozing, or slow healing of a skin wound;
  • a new skin lesion, or a mole that has changed in size or color;
  • unusual bleeding or bruising;
  • sudden chest pain or discomfort, cough, feeling short of breath;
  • tenderness around the transplanted kidney;
  • signs of infection--fever, chills, painful mouth sores, skin sores, cold or flu symptoms, pain or burning when you urinate; or
  • low red blood cells (anemia)--pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet.

Common side effects may include:

  • fever, cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat;
  • mouth sores;
  • nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea;
  • headache, muscle aches;
  • chest pain;
  • dizziness; or
  • acne.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Rapamune (Sirolimus)


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Rapamune Professional Information


The following adverse reactions are discussed in greater detail in other sections of the label.

  • Increased susceptibility to infection, lymphoma, and malignancy [see BOXED WARNING, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Excess mortality, graft loss, and hepatic artery thrombosis in liver transplant patients [see BOXED WARNING, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Bronchial anastomotic dehiscence in lung transplant patients [see BOXED WARNING, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Hypersensitivity reactions [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Exfoliative dermatitis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Fluid accumulation and impairment of wound healing [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Decline in renal function in long-term combination of cyclosporine with Rapamune [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Proteinuria [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Interstitial lung disease [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Increased risk of calcineurin inhibitor-induced HUS/TTP/TMA [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Embryo-fetal toxicity [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Male infertility [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

The most common (≥30%) adverse reactions observed with Rapamune in clinical studies for organ rejection prophylaxis in recipients of renal transplantation are: peripheral edema, hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, creatinine increased, constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, fever, urinary tract infection, anemia, nausea, arthralgia, pain, and thrombocytopenia.

The most common (≥20%) adverse reactions observed with Rapamune in the clinical study for the treatment of LAM are: stomatitis, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, nasopharyngitis, acne, chest pain, peripheral edema, upper respiratory tract infection, headache, dizziness, myalgia, and hypercholesterolemia.

The following adverse reactions resulted in a rate of discontinuation of >5% in clinical trials for renal transplant rejection prophylaxis: creatinine increased, hypertriglyceridemia, and TTP. In patients with LAM, 11% of subjects discontinued due to adverse reactions, with no single adverse reaction leading to discontinuation in more than one patient being treated with Rapamune.

Clinical Studies Experience In Prophylaxis Of Organ Rejection Following Renal Transplantation

The safety and efficacy of Rapamune Oral Solution for the prevention of organ rejection following renal transplantation were assessed in two randomized, double-blind, multicenter, controlled trials [see Clinical Studies]. The safety profiles in the two studies were similar.

The incidence of adverse reactions in the randomized, double-blind, multicenter, placebo-controlled trial (Study 2) in which 219 renal transplant patients received Rapamune Oral Solution 2 mg/day, 208 received Rapamune Oral Solution 5 mg/day, and 124 received placebo is presented in Table 1 below. The study population had a mean age of 46 years (range 15 to 71 years), the distribution was 67% male, and the composition by race was: White (78%), Black (11%), Asian (3%), Hispanic (2%), and Other (5%). All patients were treated with cyclosporine and corticosteroids. Data (≥12 months post-transplant) presented in the following table show the adverse reactions that occurred in at least one of the Rapamune treatment groups with an incidence of ≥20%.

The safety profile of the tablet did not differ from that of the oral solution formulation [see Clinical Studies].

In general, adverse reactions related to the administration of Rapamune were dependent on dose/concentration. Although a daily maintenance dose of 5 mg, with a loading dose of 15 mg, was shown to be safe and effective, no efficacy advantage over the 2 mg dose could be established for renal transplant patients. Patients receiving 2 mg of Rapamune Oral Solution per day demonstrated an overall better safety profile than did patients receiving 5 mg of Rapamune Oral Solution per day.

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in one clinical trial of a drug cannot be directly compared with rates in the clinical trials of the same or another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.


Adverse Reaction -Rapamune Oral Solution-
2 mg/day
(n = 218)
5 mg/day
(n = 208)
(n = 124)
Peripheral edema 54 58 48
Hypertriglyceridemia 45 57 23
Hypertension 45 49 48
Hypercholesterolemia 43 46 23
Creatinine increased 39 40 38
Constipation 36 38 31
Abdominal pain 29 36 30
Diarrhea 25 35 27
Headache 34 34 31
Fever 23 34 35
Urinary tract infection 26 33 26
Anemia 23 33 21
Nausea 25 31 29
Arthralgia 25 31 18
Thrombocytopenia 14 30 9
Pain 33 29 25
Acne 22 22 19
Rash 10 20 6
Edema 20 18 15
a Patients received cyclosporine and corticosteroids.

The following adverse reactions were reported less frequently (≥3%, but <20%)

  • Body as a Whole - Sepsis, lymphocele, herpes zoster, herpes simplex.
  • Cardiovascular - Venous thromboembolism (including pulmonary embolism, deep venous thrombosis), tachycardia.
  • Digestive System - Stomatitis.
  • Hematologic and Lymphatic System - Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura/hemolytic uremic syndrome (TTP/HUS), leukopenia.
  • Metabolic/Nutritional - Abnormal healing, increased lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), hypokalemia, diabetes mellitus.
  • Musculoskeletal System - Bone necrosis.
  • Respiratory System - Pneumonia, epistaxis.
  • Skin - Melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma.
  • Urogenital System - Pyelonephritis, decline in renal function (creatinine increased) in long-term combination of cyclosporine with Rapamune [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS], ovarian cysts, menstrual disorders (including amenorrhea and menorrhagia).

Less frequently (<3%) occurring adverse reactions included: lymphoma/post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, mycobacterial infections (including M. tuberculosis), pancreatitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Epstein-Barr virus.

Increased Serum Cholesterol And Triglycerides

The use of Rapamune in renal transplant patients was associated with increased serum cholesterol and triglycerides that may require treatment.

In Studies 1 and 2, in de novo renal transplant patients who began the study with fasting, total serum cholesterol <200 mg/dL or fasting, total serum triglycerides <200 mg/dL, there was an increased incidence of hypercholesterolemia (fasting serum cholesterol >240 mg/dL) or hypertriglyceridemia (fasting serum triglycerides >500 mg/dL), respectively, in patients receiving both Rapamune 2 mg and Rapamune 5 mg compared with azathioprine and placebo controls.

Treatment of new-onset hypercholesterolemia with lipid-lowering agents was required in 42-52% of patients enrolled in the Rapamune arms of Studies 1 and 2 compared with 16% of patients in the placebo arm and 22% of patients in the azathioprine arm. In other Rapamune renal transplant studies, up to 90% of patients required treatment for hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia with anti-lipid therapy (e.g., statins, fibrates). Despite anti-lipid management, up to 50% of patients had fasting serum cholesterol levels >240 mg/dL and triglycerides above recommended target levels [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Abnormal Healing

Abnormal healing events following transplant surgery include fascial dehiscence, incisional hernia, and anastomosis disruption (e.g., wound, vascular, airway, ureteral, biliary).


Table 2 below summarizes the incidence of malignancies in the two controlled trials (Studies 1 and 2) for the prevention of acute rejection [see Clinical Studies].

At 24 months (Study 1) and 36 months (Study 2) post-transplant, there were no significant differences among treatment groups.


Malignancy Rapamune Oral Solution 2 mg/day Rapamune Oral Solution 5 mg/day Azathioprine 2-3 mg/kg/day Placebo
Study 1 (n = 284) Study 2
(n = 227)
Study 1 (n = 274) Study 2
(n = 219)
Study 1
(n = 161)
Study 2
(n = 130)
Lymphoma/lymphoproliferative disease 0.7 1.8 1.1 3.2 0.6 0.8
Skin Carcinoma
Any Squamous Cellc 0.4 2.7 2.2 0.9 3.8 3.0
Any Basal Cellc 0.7 2.2 1.5 1.8 2.5 5.3
Melanoma 0.0 0.4 0.0 1.4 0.0 0.0
Miscellaneous/Not Specified 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.8
Total 1.1 4.4 3.3 4.1 4.3 7.7
Other Malignancy 1.1 2.2 1.5 1.4 0.6 2.3
a Patients received cyclosporine and corticosteroids.
b Includes patients who prematurely discontinued treatment.
c Patients may be counted in more than one category.

Rapamune Following Cyclosporine Withdrawal

The incidence of adverse reactions was determined through 36 months in a randomized, multicenter, controlled trial (Study 3) in which 215 renal transplant patients received Rapamune as a maintenance regimen following cyclosporine withdrawal, and 215 patients received Rapamune with cyclosporine therapy [see Clinical Studies]. All patients were treated with corticosteroids. The safety profile prior to randomization (start of cyclosporine withdrawal) was similar to that of the 2 mg Rapamune groups in Studies 1 and 2.

Following randomization (at 3 months), patients who had cyclosporine eliminated from their therapy experienced higher incidences of the following adverse reactions: abnormal liver function tests (including increased AST/SGOT and increased ALT/SGPT), hypokalemia, thrombocytopenia, and abnormal healing. Conversely, the incidence of the following adverse events was higher in patients who remained on cyclosporine than those who had cyclosporine withdrawn from therapy: hypertension, cyclosporine toxicity, increased creatinine, abnormal kidney function, toxic nephropathy, edema, hyperkalemia, hyperuricemia, and gum hyperplasia. Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure improved significantly following cyclosporine withdrawal.


The incidence of malignancies in Study 3 [see Clinical Studies] is presented in Table 3.

In Study 3, the incidence of lymphoma/lymphoproliferative disease was similar in all treatment groups. The overall incidence of malignancy was higher in patients receiving Rapamune plus cyclosporine compared with patients who had cyclosporine withdrawn. Conclusions regarding these differences in the incidence of malignancy could not be made because Study 3 was not designed to consider malignancy risk factors or systematically screen subjects for malignancy. In addition, more patients in the Rapamune with cyclosporine group had a pre-transplantation history of skin carcinoma.


Malignancy Non randomized
(n = 95)
Rapamune with Cyclosporine Therapy
(n = 215)
Rapamune Following Cyclosporine Withdrawal
(n = 215)
Lymphoma/lymphoproliferative disease 1.1 1.4 0.5
Skin Carcinoma
Any Squamous Cellc 3.2 3.3 2.3
Any Basal Cellc 3.2 6.5 2.3
Melanoma 0.0 0.5 0.0
Miscellaneous/Not Specified 1.1 0.9 0.0
Total 4.2 7.9 3.7
Other Malignancy 3.2 3.3 1.9
a Patients received cyclosporine and corticosteroids.
b Includes patients who prematurely discontinued treatment.
c Patients may be counted in more than one category.

High-Immunologic Risk Renal Transplant Patients

Safety was assessed in 224 patients who received at least one dose of sirolimus with cyclosporine [see Clinical Studies]. Overall, the incidence and nature of adverse reactions was similar to those seen in previous combination studies with Rapamune. The incidence of malignancy was 1.3% at 12 months.

Conversion From Calcineurin Inhibitors To Rapamune In Maintenance Renal Transplant Population

The safety and efficacy of conversion from calcineurin inhibitors to Rapamune in maintenance renal transplant population have not been established [see Clinical Studies]. In a study evaluating the safety and efficacy of conversion from calcineurin inhibitors to Rapamune (initial target sirolimus concentrations of 12-20 ng/mL, and then 8-20 ng/mL, by chromatographic assay) in maintenance renal transplant patients, enrollment was stopped in the subset of patients (n = 87) with a baseline glomerular filtration rate of less than 40 mL/min. There was a higher rate of serious adverse events, including pneumonia, acute rejection, graft loss and death, in this stratum of the Rapamune treatment arm.

The subset of patients with a baseline glomerular filtration rate of less than 40 mL/min had 2 years of follow-up after randomization. In this population, the rate of pneumonia was 25.9% (15/58) versus 13.8% (4/29), graft loss (excluding death with functioning graft loss) was 22.4% (13/58) versus 31.0% (9/29), and death was 15.5% (9/58) versus 3.4% (1/29) in the sirolimus conversion group and CNI continuation group, respectively.

In the subset of patients with a baseline glomerular filtration rate of greater than 40 mL/min, there was no benefit associated with conversion with regard to improvement in renal function and a greater incidence of proteinuria in the Rapamune conversion arm.

Overall in this study, a 5-fold increase in the reports of tuberculosis among sirolimus 2.0% (11/551) and comparator 0.4% (1/273) treatment groups was observed with 2:1 randomization scheme.

In a second study evaluating the safety and efficacy of conversion from tacrolimus to Rapamune 3 to 5 months post-kidney transplant, a higher rate of adverse events, discontinuations due to adverse events, acute rejection, and new onset diabetes mellitus was observed following conversion to Rapamune. There was also no benefit with respect to renal function and a greater incidence of proteinuria was observed after conversion to sirolimus [(see Clinical Studies].

Pediatric Renal Transplant Patients

Safety was assessed in a controlled clinical trial in pediatric (<18 years of age) renal transplant patients considered at high-immunologic risk, defined as a history of one or more acute allograft rejection episodes and/or the presence of chronic allograft nephropathy on a renal biopsy [see Clinical Studies]. The use of Rapamune in combination with calcineurin inhibitors and corticosteroids was associated with a higher incidence of deterioration of renal function (creatinine increased) compared to calcineurin inhibitor-based therapy, serum lipid abnormalities (including, but not limited to, increased serum triglycerides and cholesterol), and urinary tract infections.

Patients With Lymphangioleiomyomatosis

Safety was assessed in a controlled trial involving 89 patients with lymphangioleiomyomatosis, 46 of whom were treated with Rapamune [see Clinical Studies]. The adverse drug reactions observed in this trial were consistent with the known safety profile for renal transplant patients receiving Rapamune, with the addition of weight decreased which was reported at a greater incidence with Rapamune when compared to placebo. Adverse reactions occurring at a frequency of ≥20% in the Rapamune treatment group and greater than placebo include stomatitis, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, nasopharyngitis, acne, chest pain, peripheral edema, upper respiratory tract infection, headache, dizziness, myalgia, and hypercholesterolemia.

Postmarketing Experience

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post-approval use of Rapamune in transplant patients. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.

  • Body as a Whole - Lymphedema.
  • Cardiovascular - Pericardial effusion (including hemodynamically significant effusions and tamponade requiring intervention in children and adults) and fluid accumulation.
  • Digestive System - Ascites.
  • Hematological/Lymphatic - Pancytopenia, neutropenia.
  • Hepatobiliary Disorders - Hepatotoxicity, including fatal hepatic necrosis, with elevated sirolimus trough concentrations.
  • Immune System - Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylactic/anaphylactoid reactions, angioedema, and hypersensitivity vasculitis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
  • Infections - Tuberculosis. BK virus associated nephropathy has been observed in patients receiving immunosuppressants, including Rapamune. This infection may be associated with serious outcomes, including deteriorating renal function and renal graft loss. Cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), sometimes fatal, have been reported in patients treated with immunosuppressants, including Rapamune [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Clostridium difficile enterocolitis.
  • Metabolic/Nutritional - Liver function test abnormal, AST/SGOT increased, ALT/SGPT increased, hypophosphatemia, hyperglycemia, diabetes mellitus.
  • Nervous system -Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome.
  • Respiratory - Cases of interstitial lung disease (including pneumonitis, bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia [BOOP], and pulmonary fibrosis), some fatal, with no identified infectious etiology have occurred in patients receiving immunosuppressive regimens including Rapamune. In some cases, the interstitial lung disease has resolved upon discontinuation or dose reduction of Rapamune. The risk may be increased as the sirolimus trough concentration increases [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]; pulmonary hemorrhage; pleural effusion; alveolar proteinosis.
  • Skin - Neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin (Merkel cell carcinoma) [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS], exfoliative dermatitis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
  • Urogenital - Nephrotic syndrome, proteinuria, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, ovarian cysts, menstrual disorders (including amenorrhea and menorrhagia). Azoospermia has been reported with the use of Rapamune and has been reversible upon discontinuation of Rapamune in most cases.

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Rapamune (Sirolimus)

Related Resources for Rapamune

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Read the Rapamune User Reviews »

© Rapamune Patient Information is supplied by Cerner Multum, Inc. and Rapamune Consumer information is supplied by First Databank, Inc., used under license and subject to their respective copyrights.


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