5-ASA/Mesalamine

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Brand Names: Asacol, Pentasa, Mesasal, Salofalk
Other Names: 5-aminosalacylic acid

Why is this medicine prescribed?

This medication is used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. It works by reducing bowel inflammation and other symptoms of the disease.

How should this medicine be used?

A. Tablets and Capsules
Unless otherwise directed by your doctor, this medication should be taken before meals and at bedtime with a full (8 oz) glass of water. Swallow the medication whole. Do not crush, chew or break before swallowing.

B. Enema

  1. Empty your bowels as much as possible.
  2. Shake the bottle well, hold it at the neck so that the medicine will not leak and remove the protective cover from the applicator tip.
  3. Lie on your left side with your lower (left) leg straight and your right leg bent toward your chest for balance or kneel on a bed, resting your upper chest and one arm on the bed.
  4. Gently insert the applicator tip into your rectum, pointing it slightly toward your navel. If this insertion causes pain or irritation, try lubricating the applicator with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or other lubricant before inserting it.
  5. Grasp the bottle firmly and tilt it slightly so that the nozzle is aimed toward your back. Squeeze the bottle steadily to release the medicine.
  6. Withdraw the applicator and discard the bottle. Remain in this position for at least 5 to 10 minutes or until the urge to defecate has passed, to allow the medicine to spread through your bowels. Try to retain the enema while you sleep.

C. Suppository

  1. If the suppository feels soft, hold it under cold, running water for one minute. Then remove the wrapper and dip the tip of the suppository in water.
  2. Lie down on your left side and raise your right knee to your chest.
  3. Using your finger, insert the suppository into the rectum, about 1 inch in adults. Keep it in place for 1-3 hours.

5-ASA must be used regularly to be effective. You may need to use it for up to 6 weeks before your symptoms improve.

Use this medication exactly as directed, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Do not change the amount or the frequency prescribed by your doctor.

What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking this medication, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about:

Allergies Pregnancy/Breastfeeding
  • if you are allergic to 5-ASA or any other drugs
  • if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are
    breast feeding, call your doctor
Other medications Medical conditions
  • any prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking (including vitamins and herbal products)
  • any current or past medical conditions


Take the missed dose as soon as you remember, but do not double your next dose.

What side effects can this medicine cause?
Although side effects from mesalamine are not common, they can occur. Tell your doctor if these symptoms are severe or persist:

  • dizziness
  • back or joint pain
  • indigestion
  • headache
  • gas or flatulence


Stop taking this medication and contact your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • worsening or severe abdominal
  • bloody or increased diarrhea
  • skin rash or itching
  • rectal bleeding
  • fever
  • shortness of breath


What storage conditions are needed for this medicine?

Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store the tablets at room temperature and away from excess heat, light and moisture (not in the bathroom). Dispose properly of any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.

What other information should I know?

  • You may notice beads or tablet-like objects in your stools – these are simply empty shells left after the medication has been absorbed
  • Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor may order certain lab test s to check your response to 5-ASA.
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