Also Known As
MPA [may be referred to by drug names Mycophenolate mofetil or Mycophenolate sodium, or by drug brand names (CellCept, Myfortic)]
Formal Name
Mycophenolic acid
This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on
21 April 2018.
At a Glance
Why Get Tested?

To determine the concentration of mycophenolic acid (MPA) in the blood in order to monitor levels, and prevent toxicity

When To Get Tested?

As soon as mycophenolate therapy begins and whenever the dose is changed. May be requested frequently at first, then at regular intervals. Whenever excess or deficient levels of MPA are suspected.

Sample Required?

A blood sample taken from a vein in your arm

Test Preparation Needed?

None

On average it takes 7 working days for the blood test results to come back from the hospital, depending on the exact tests requested. Some specialist test results may take longer, if samples have to be sent to a reference (specialist) laboratory. The X-ray & scan results may take longer. If you are registered to use the online services of your local practice, you will be able to access your results online.

If the doctor wants to see you about the result(s), you will be offered an appointment. If you are concerned about your test results, you will need to arrange an appointment with your doctor so that all relevant information including age, ethnicity, health history, signs and symptoms, laboratory and other procedures (radiology, endoscopy, etc.), can be considered.

Lab Tests Online-UK is an educational website designed to provide patients and carers with information on laboratory tests used in medical care. We are not a laboratory and are unable to comment on an individual's health and treatment.

Reference ranges are dependent on many factors, including patient age, gender, sample population, and test method, and numeric test results can have different meanings in different laboratories.

For these reasons, you will not find reference ranges for the majority of tests described on this web site. The lab report containing your test results should include the relevant reference range for your test(s). Please consult your doctor or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range if you do not have the lab report.

For more information on reference ranges, please read Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

What is being tested?

This test measures the amount of mycophenolic acid in the blood. Mycophenolic acid is the active metabolite of mycophenolate, a drug that is usually given to patients who have had a heart, kidney, or liver transplant  to help prevent rejection, and sometimes to patients with a variety of autoimmune disorders.  

Normally, the immune system defends the body against infections, and can distinguish between “self”, the body’s own constituents, and “nonself”, “foreign” materials.  The immune system recognises a transplanted organ as foreign and begins to attack it.  In the case of autoimmune disorders, the immune system mistakenly targets the body’s own cells and tissues, causing damage and inflammation.  Mycophenolic acid belongs to a group of immunosuppressant drugs and helps to prevent organ rejection, tissue inflammation, and damage.  It acts by reducing the formation of an enzyme that is necessary for increasing the number of lymphocytes (immune cell).  This action will cause a reduction in immune system function and antibody production, reducing the body’s immune response to transplanted organs or to its own tissues and cells.

Mycophenolate is given to organ transplant patients in conjunction with other immunosuppressant drugs, such as ciclosporin and tacrolimus. In the treatment of autoimmune disorders, mycophenolate may be used as a single agent (although the patient may also be taking other medications). It may be used for treating conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

There are two formulations of the drug available, mycophenolate mofetil and mycophenolate sodium. The drug is broken down in the liver to form first the active drug mycophenolic acid (MPA), and then the inactive compound mycophenolic acid glucuronide (MPAG). Cells in the body turn some of the MPAG back into MPA. Concentrations of MPA in the blood rise when MPA is first formed and then again when some of it is re-formed. Most MPAG, and small amounts of MPA, are removed from the body in the urine.

Doctors typically give a standard dose of mycophenolate and then monitor its effect by checking patient’s medical condition. Most immunosuppressants must be maintained within a narrow therapeutic range.  If the concentration is too low, organ rejection may occur; if it is too high, then the patient may develop toxicity. However, the therapeutic range for mycophenolic acid has not yet been definitively established and doctors can manage most patients without the need to measure the concentration of the drug.  When the doctor chooses to monitor mycophenolic acid levels, the mycophenolic acid blood test is usually measured as a “trough” level and correlated to clinical side effects. The ‘trough’ level is collected just before the next dose when the drug is at it’s lowest concentration in the blood.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

No test preparation is needed.

Accordion Title
Common Questions
  • How is it used?

    The mycophenolic acid (MPA) test is requested to measure the amount of drug in the blood.  Unlike other immunosuppressant drugs, the therapeutic range for MPA has not yet been definitively established, and the doctor may request levels to monitor drug interactions with other immunosuppressants in combination therapy or to correlate with clinical symptoms and side effects.

    If someone is taking mycophenolate in addition to ciclosporin or tacrolimus then both MPA and the other immunosuppressant concentrations will be measured.

    Since mycophenolic acid can lower white blood cell counts and cause anaemia, an FBC (full blood count) will frequently be requested with the mycophenolic acid test to evaluate the body’s blood cell status.  Other tests may also be requested at intervals to check organ function as MPA levels can be affected by changes in kidney and liver function.

  • When is it requested?

    Mycophenolic acid tests and FBC are requested frequently at the start of treatment and then at intervals for as long as the patient is taking mycophenolate.  The MPA test may be performed whenever there is a change in dose, a change in other medications that the patient is taking, or whenever a patient has symptoms that suggest side effects, toxicity, or organ rejection.

    Some side effects and symptoms of toxicity may include:

    • Constipation
    • Diarrhoea
    • Nausea
    • Infections, such as urinary tract and upper respiratory
    • Sleeplessness (insomnia)
    • Weakness, fatigue
    • Muscle pain
    • Stomach pain or swelling
    • Dizziness
    • Tremors
    • Black or tarry stools, blood in the stools
    • Swelling of the hands and/or feet

    If any of the above become severe or persistent, the doctor should be notified and he/she may wish to check the level of the drug.

  • What does the test result mean?

    A mycophenolic acid level that is too high may cause toxicity. A level that is too low may lead to rejection of the transplanted organ. Since the therapeutic range is not yet fully established, doctors will often rely on the patient’s clinical signs and their own expertise in addition to drug levels to help guide treatment and adjust dosage if necessary.

    Monitoring blood levels can help establish the range in which mycophenolic acid works best for an individual person (i.e. individualise therapy). The level at which the person has minimal side effects while not rejecting the organ is the target level for that individual. If other immunosuppressant and/or other drugs are added, or illnesses occur, the doctor can adjust the dose of mycophenolic acid if necessary until the level is right for a particular individual.

     

  • Is there anything else I should know?

    Mycophenolic acid levels can be affected by other medications. Drugs that reduce MPA concentrations include antacids and colestyramine. Drugs that can increase MPA include ganciclovir, probenecid, and aciclovir. Herbal supplements such as Echinacea,and St. John’s wort should be avoided while taking mycophenolate.

    MPA can decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives, and has been linked with first trimester miscarriages and congenital birth defects. Women should not become pregnant while taking mycophenolate and should not breastfeed. Two forms of birth control are recommended, as is a pregnancy test prior to the start of the medication. Patients who become pregnant should talk to their doctor about the associated risks.

    Those who are taking mycophenolate should talk to their doctor before getting any vaccines.

    Patients may have side effects and experience complications such as infections and slow healing even when taking mycophenolate properly. Like other immunosuppressant agents, MPA is associated with an increased risk of infection and of the development of lymphoma.

  • How long will I need to be on mycophenolate?

    Typically, mycophenolate is given for a long period of time but it will depend on your condition and how you respond to the drug. Mycophenolate is one choice in a range of drugs that may be used to help treat your condition. If you are a transplant patient you must take an immunosuppressant (or combination of drugs) throughout your life. If you are a patient with an autoimmune disorder then you will be prescribed medications to help limit damage to your body and to alleviate symptoms. Talk to your doctor about the best choices for your condition. These choices may change over time.

  • Where are mycophenolic acid tests performed?

    Mycophenolic acid tests may be performed in a local hospital laboratory, but will frequently be sent to a reference laboratory.  Because different laboratories use different methods and will have slightly different reference ranges your doctor will usually send your tests consistently to one laboratory for testing.

  • Should I tell my other health care providers that I am taking mycophenolate?

    Yes, this is important information for them, partially because of drug interactions and partially because of the immunosuppressant action of mycophenolic acid. It can affect your ability to heal, to receive vaccinations, and may increase the risk of developing certain cancers (such as skin cancers and lymphoma).