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Erlotinib (By mouth)

Erlotinib (er-LOE-ti-nib)

Treats cancer, including pancreatic cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

Do not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to erlotinib or if you are pregnant.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Your dose may need to be changed several times to find what works best for you.
  • It is best to take this medicine on an empty stomach. Take the medicine at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after you eat.

If a dose is missed:

  • Take a dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and take a regular dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine:

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any leftover medicine after you have finished your treatment. You will also need to throw away old medicine after the expiration date has passed.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you also use a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®).
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you use nefazodone (Serzone®), St John's wort, medicine for seizures (such as carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, Dilantin®, Tegretol®), medicine to treat an infection (such as ciprofloxacin, clarithromycin, itraconazole, ketoconazole, rifabutin, rifampin, rifapentine, telithromycin, troleandomycin, voriconazole, Nizoral®, Rifadin®), or a stomach medicine (such as lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, Aciphex®, Dexilant®, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec®).
  • Tell your doctor if you also use medicine to treat HIV or AIDS (such as atazanavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, Crixivan®, Norvir®, Reyataz®), a steroid medicine (such as hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, prednisolone, prednisone), other cancer medicine (such as bevacizumab, docetaxel, paclitaxel, Avastin®, Taxol®), or an NSAID pain or arthritis medicine (such as aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen, Advil®, Aleve®, Celebrex®, Voltaren®).
  • If you take a stomach medicine for heartburn or ulcers (such as cimetidine, famotidine, ranitidine, Pepcid®, Tagamet®, Zantac®), take the medicine at least 10 hours before or 2 hours after you take erlotinib.
  • If you take an antacid (such as Gaviscon®, Maalox®, Mylanta®, Rolaids®), take the antacid several hours before or after you take this medicine.
  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are using this medicine.
  • Tell your doctor if you change how much or how often you smoke, or if you quit smoking. Your treatment might need to be changed.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant. You should continue to use birth control for at least 14 days after you have stopped taking this medicine.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, bleeding problems, eye or vision problems, stomach problems, or a history of other lung disease or breathing problems, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Cancer medicines can cause severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. Ask your doctor about ways to control these side effects.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have unusual trouble breathing, a cough, and fever that come on suddenly. These could by symptoms of lung problems caused by this medicine. This could start when you start using this medicine or as long as 9 months later.
  • This medicine can cause serious bleeding in your digestive system. This is more likely if you have a history of stomach ulcers or diverticulosis, or if you are also taking certain other drugs (such as a steroid or NSAID). Call your doctor right away if you have bloody or black, tarry stools; severe stomach pain; or vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • You may use alcohol-free emollient creams, sunscreen, or sun blocking lotions to prevent skin problems. Stay out of the sun when possible.
  • Check with your doctor right away if your have eye pain, redness, or irritation during or after treatment. You may need to be checked by an eye doctor.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Blistering, peeling, red skin rash
  • Bloody or black, tarry stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Chest pain that may spread to your arms, jaw, back, or neck, unusual sweating, faintness
  • Dark-colored urine or pale stools, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain in your upper stomach, yellow skin or eyes
  • Eye redness, irritation, or pain
  • Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches
  • Numbness or weakness in your arm or leg, or on one side of your body
  • Severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Sudden or severe headache, problems with vision, speech, or walking
  • Skin itching, tenderness, and burning, darker skin, dry skin
  • Tiny red dots on the skin, especially on the lower legs
  • Unusual trouble breathing, fever, cough
  • Urinating less or less often than normal
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising, or weakness

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Mild diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Mild skin rash or itching
  • Sores or white patches on your lips, mouth, or throat
  • Tiredness, mild weakness
  • Weight loss, loss of appetite

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 11/4/2014
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