Deferoxamine mesylate chelates iron by forming a stable complex that prevents the iron from entering into further chemical reactions. It readily chelates iron from ferritin and hemosiderin but not readily from transferrin; it does not combine with the iron from cytochromes and hemoglobin. Deferoxamine mesylate does not cause any demonstrable increase in the excretion of electrolytes or trace metals. Theoretically, 100 parts by weight of deferoxamine mesylate is capable of binding approximately 8.5 parts by weight of ferric iron.
Deferoxamine mesylate is metabolized principally by plasma enzymes, but the pathways have not yet been defined. The chelate is readily soluble in water and passes easily through the kidney, giving the urine a characteristic reddish color. Some is also excreted in the feces via the bile.