Irinotecan (Intravenous route)
Irinotecan can induce both early and late forms of diarrhea. Early diarrhea may be accompanied by cholinergic symptoms that may be prevented or ameliorated by atropine. Late diarrhea can be life threatening and should be treated promptly with loperamide. Initiate antibiotic therapy if ileus, fever, or severe neutropenia develop. Administration of irinotecan should be interrupted and subsequent doses reduced if severe diarrhea occurs. Severe myelosuppression may occur with irinotecan administration .
Topoisomerase I Inhibitor
Uses of This Medicine:
Irinotecan injection is given together with other medicines to treat patients with metastatic cancer (a cancer that has already spread) of the colon or rectum.
Irinotecan belongs to the group of medicines called antineoplastics (cancer medicines). It interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal cells may also be affected by the medicine, other effects may also occur. Some of these may be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Other effects, like hair loss, may not be serious but may cause concern. Some effects may occur after treatment with irinotecan has been stopped. Be sure that you have discussed with your doctor the possible side effects of this medicine as well as the good it can do.
This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Once a medicine has been approved for marketing for a certain use, experience may show that it is also useful for other medical problems. Although these uses are not included in product labeling, irinotecan is used in certain patients with the following medical conditions:
Before Using This Medicine:
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this medicine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of irinotecan injection in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of irinotecan injection in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have severe diarrhea, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving irinotecan.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving this medicine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Using this medicine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using this medicine with any of the following is usually not recommended, but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use this medicine, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems—
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this medicine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
Proper Use of This Medicine:
A doctor or other trained health professional will give you this medicine in a hospital or cancer treatment center. This medicine is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.
Irinotecan often causes nausea and vomiting. However, it is very important that you continue to receive this medicine even if you begin to feel ill. You may receive other medicines to help with the nausea and vomiting. Ask your doctor for other ways to lessen these effects.
Precautions While Using This Medicine:
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant before you receive this medicine. Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
This medicine may cause a serious type of allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have chills; fever; hives; hoarseness; itching; rash; trouble breathing; trouble swallowing; or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after you receive the medicine.
While you are being treated with irinotecan, and after you stop treatment, do not have any immunizations (vaccinations) without your doctor's approval. Irinotecan may lower your body's resistance, and there is a chance you might get the infection the immunization is meant to prevent. In addition, other persons living in your household should not get live vaccines (e.g., nasal influenza or flu vaccine). Try to avoid persons who have taken live vaccines. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you cannot take these precautions, you should wear a protective face mask that covers the nose and mouth.
Irinotecan may cause diarrhea, which can last long enough and be severe enough to cause serious medical problems. If diarrhea occurs while you are being treated with irinotecan:
Irinotecan can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are needed for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:
Call your doctor right away if you have an unexplained fever, cough, shortness of breath, trouble with breathing, or wheezing after receiving this medicine. These may be symptoms of a serious lung problem.
This medicine may increase your risk of having blood clots. Tell your doctor right away if you start having a sudden and severe headache, trouble with breathing, or problems with vision, speech, or walking.
This medicine may cause some people to become dizzy, drowsy, or less alert than they are normally. This medicine may also cause blurred vision or other vision problems. If any of these side effects occur, do not drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert or not able to see well. If these reactions are especially bothersome, check with your doctor.
Ketoconazole (Nizoral®) and St. John's wort should not be used while you are receiving irinotecan. If you are using St. John's Wort, it should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before the first cycle of irinotecan. If you are using ketoconazole, it should be discontinued at least 1 week before starting irinotecan treatment.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
Side Effects of This Medicine:
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Last Updated: 4/4/2014
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