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Mercaptamine (cysteamine) and mercaptopurine

Safety advisory - similarity between ingredient names mercaptamine (cysteamine) and mercaptopurine

17 June 2016

Health professionals are advised to take care when prescribing and dispensing mercaptopurine and mercaptamine (cysteamine) bitartrate products.

In different countries, different names are used to describe the same medicinal ingredient. We are updating some medicine ingredient names used in Australia to align with names used internationally.

Cysteamine bitartrate is changing its name to mercaptamine (cysteamine) bitartrate. Medicines containing this ingredient will start to show mercaptamine (cysteamine) bitartrate as the ingredient name on their labels.

This new name (mercaptamine) sounds very similar to the existing ingredient name mercaptopurine.

  • Mercaptamine (cysteamine) bitartrate is used for metabolic conditions (the management of nephropathic cystinosis) and is available in a 50mg or 150mg tablet.
  • Mercaptopurine is used for treating cancer and auto-immune conditions (different forms of leukemia) and is available in a 50mg tablet and as an oral liquid.

There is a risk of severe consequences if these medicines are mistaken for each other and prescribed or dispensed in error.

Information for health professionals

  • Take care when prescribing, dispensing and administering medicines to make sure that the right product is selected.
  • Posters and leaflets to help raise awareness of the changes are available for you to download.

Reporting problems

Consumers and health professionals are encouraged to report problems with medicines or vaccines. Your report will contribute to the TGA's monitoring of these products.

The TGA cannot give advice about an individual's medical condition. You are strongly encouraged to talk with a health professional if you are concerned about a possible adverse event associated with a medicine or vaccine.