Methotrexate (Oral route)
Only for life-threatening neoplastic disease or severe rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis unresponsive to other therapies. Death, fetal death and/or congenital anomalies, lung disease, tumor lysis syndrome, fatal skin reactions, and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia have been reported. Monitor for bone marrow, liver, lung, and kidney toxicities. Unexpectedly severe (sometimes fatal) bone marrow suppression, aplastic anemia, and gastrointestinal toxicity have been reported with concomitant administration of methotrexate (usually in high dosage) along with some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Hepatotoxicity, fibrosis, and cirrhosis occur with prolonged use. Diarrhea and ulcerative stomatitis require interruption of therapy. Methotrexate elimination is reduced in patients with impaired renal functions, ascites, or pleural effusions. Increased risk of soft tissue necrosis and osteonecrosis with concomitant radiotherapy. Malignant lymphoma may occur .
Uses of This Medicine:
Methotrexate is used alone or together with other medicines to treat several types of cancer such as breast, head and neck, lung, blood, bone, lymph node, and uterus cancers.
Methotrexate is used to treat adults with severe rheumatoid arthritis and children with polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis who had other treatments that did not work well. It is also used to control symptoms of severe psoriasis in adults who have not been helped by other treatments.
Methotrexate belongs to the group of medicines known as antineoplastics (cancer medicines). It blocks an enzyme that is needed by cells to live. This interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed by the body. For patients with arthritis or psoriasis, methotrexate may work by improving the immune system.
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, methotrexate 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 performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of methotrexate for the treatment of cancer and juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children. However, safety and efficacy have not been established in children with psoriasis.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of methotrexate in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have kidney problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose.
Studies in women breastfeeding have demonstrated harmful infant effects. An alternative to this medication should be prescribed or you should stop breastfeeding while using this medicine.
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 taking 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.
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:
Take this medicine only as directed by your doctor. Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than your doctor ordered.
The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, call your doctor or pharmacist for instructions.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Ask your healthcare professional how you should dispose of any medicine you do not use.
Precautions While Using This Medicine:
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure this medicine is working properly and to check for unwanted effects. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. The medicine may also cause birth defects if it is used by the father when his sexual partner becomes pregnant. Men should use birth control during and for at least 3 months after the last dose. Women should use birth control during and for at least one menstrual cycle after the last dose. Tell your doctor right away if pregnancy occurs while you are using this medicine.
Talk with your doctor before using this medicine if you plan to have children. Some men and women who use this medicine have become infertile (unable to have children).
Limit alcohol use with this medicine. Alcohol may increase the risk for liver problems.
Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.
Methotrexate can lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, which increases the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary 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:
While you are being treated with methotrexate, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccines) without your doctor's approval. Methotrexate may lower your body's resistance and the vaccine may not work as well or you might get the infection the vaccine is meant to prevent. In addition, you should not be around other persons living in your household who receive live virus vaccines because there is a chance they could pass the virus on to you. Some examples of live vaccines include measles, mumps, influenza (nasal flu vaccine), poliovirus (oral form), rotavirus, and rubella. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
Serious skin reactions can occur with this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, red skin lesions, severe acne or a skin rash, sores or ulcers on the skin, or fever or chills while you are using this medicine.
This medicine may cause a serious reaction called tumor lysis syndrome. Tell your doctor right away if you have a change in urine amount, joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, lower back, side, or stomach pain, rapid weight gain, swelling of the feet or lower legs, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
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 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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