penicillamine, Cuprimine, Depen

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

What is penicillamine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Penicillamine is an anti-rheumatic drug used to treat patients with active rheumatoid arthritis. It also is classified as a metal binding (chelating) agent used for treating Wilson's disease, a genetic disease that causes excessive copper to accumulate in the body. The mechanism of action of penicillamine in rheumatoid arthritis is unknown but it may be related to reduction of collagen formation. (Collagen is a type of tissue compound that forms as part of scar tissue that result from inflammation.) Penicillamine also may result in suppression of the immune system. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, penicillamine appears to slow the progression of the disease (specifically deformities of the joints) and improve function. For this reason it is considered a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD). Penicillamine binds copper, iron, mercury, lead, and cystine which then are excreted in the urine, and this mechanism is important in treating several non-rheumatic diseases including Wilson's disease. The FDA approved penicillamine in December 1970.

What brand names are available for penicillamine?

Cuprimine, Depen

Is penicillamine available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes, in other countries

Do I need a prescription for penicillamine?

Yes

What are the side effects of penicillamine?

Common reactions to penicillamine include: 

Penicillamine can cause bone marrow suppression (anemia, low blood platelets [thrombocytopenia] and white blood cells [neutropenia]) and serious kidney disease. All patients who take penicillamine require regular blood and urine testing to monitor for these side effects.

Penicillamine can increase the requirement for vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and supplements of pyridoxine are advised. Penicillamine has an unusual risk of inducing immune-related diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, polymyositis, Goodpasture's syndrome, and myasthenia gravis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/15/2017

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