Sulfasalazine is a medicine made from salicylic acid—the
same active ingredient found in aspirin—plus an antibiotic called
sulfapyridine. The medicine comes in time-release tablets taken by
Sulfasalazine reduces inflammation, but
the exact way this happens is not known. It has been used to decrease bowel
inflammation in inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's and joint
inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. More recently, it has been used to fight
ankylosing spondylitis, but it does not seem to work
on the spine. It is more effective if ankylosing spondylitis is causing
symptoms in other areas such as the shoulders and the heels.
Ankylosing spondylitis causes pain,
stiffness, and swelling of the spine and sometimes other areas such as the
hips, chest wall, and heels. Many people who have ankylosing spondylitis also
have inflammatory bowel disease. Sulfasalazine helps by decreasing bowel
inflammation and abdominal (belly) pain.
Sulfasalazine may help control pain
and inflammation for some people in areas other than the spine. Its
effectiveness is still being studied.1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
Tell your doctor if
you are allergic to aspirin, sulfa drugs, or any other drug. And be sure he or
she knows about any other medicines, vitamins, or other supplements you are
You could be sensitive to sunlight while taking
sulfasalazine. Wear sunglasses, and use sunscreen.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Arnett FC (2008). Seronegative spondyloarthritis. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 15, chap. 3. New York: WebMD.
May 14, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Richa Dhawan, MD - Rheumatology
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