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All about: Gemzar

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Generic Name: gemcitabine (jem SITE a been)
Brand Names: Gemzar

What is gemcitabine?

Gemcitabine is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Gemcitabine is used to treat cancers of the pancreas, lung and breast.

Gemcitabine may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about gemcitabine?

Do not receive this medication without telling your doctor if you are pregnant. It could cause harm to the unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

Gemcitabine is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein. You will receive this injection in a clinic or hospital setting. Gemcitabine is usually given once a week for several weeks. The medicine must be given slowly through an IV infusion, and can take up to 30 minutes to complete.

Gemcitabine can lower the blood cells that help your body fight infections. This can make it easier for you to bleed from an injury or get sick from being around others who are ill. To be sure your blood cells do not get too low, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. Your kidney and liver function may also need to be checked. Do not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while you are being treated with gemcitabine, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you.

If any of this medicine accidentally gets on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before receiving gemcitabine?

Do not use this medication if you are allergic to gemcitabine.

Before receiving gemcitabine, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have:

  • kidney disease;
  • liver disease; or
  • if you are receiving radiation treatment.

If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use gemcitabine, or you may need a dosage adjustment or special tests during treatment.

FDA pregnancy category D. This medication can cause harm to an unborn baby. Do not receive gemcitabine without telling your doctor if you are pregnant. Use an effective form of birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment. It is not known whether gemcitabine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How is gemcitabine used?

Gemcitabine is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein. You will receive this injection in a clinic or hospital setting. The medicine must be given slowly through an IV infusion, and can take up to 30 minutes to complete.

Gemcitabine is usually given once a week for up to 7 weeks.

Gemcitabine can lower the blood cells that help your body fight infections. This can make it easier for you to bleed from an injury or get sick from being around others who are ill. To be sure your blood cells do not get too low, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. Your kidney and liver function may also need to be checked. Do not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor.

If any of this medicine accidentally gets on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Contact your doctor if you miss a miss an appointment to receive your gemcitabine infusion.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have received too much of this medicine.

Symptoms of a gemcitabine overdose may include numbness or tingly feeling, severe skin rash, fever, chills, flu symptoms, or any signs of infection.

What should I avoid while using gemcitabine?

Avoid contact with people who have colds, the flu, or other contagious illnesses. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop signs of infection.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while you are being treated with gemcitabine, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you.

Gemcitabine side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness;

  • urinating less than usual or not at all;

  • nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;

  • sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;

  • sudden headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance;

  • fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms;

  • white patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips;

  • pain, swelling, or skin changes where the needle was placed;

  • hearing problems;

  • blood in your urine; or

  • breathing problems.

Less serious side effects may be more likely to occur, such as:

  • mild nausea, vomiting, upset stomach;

  • diarrhea or constipation;

  • swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet;

  • skin rash;

  • numbness or tingly feeling;

  • drowsiness; or

  • hair loss.

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

What other drugs will affect gemcitabine?

There may be other drugs that can affect gemcitabine. Tell your doctor about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you use. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and drugs prescribed by other doctors. Do not start using a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your healthcare provider may have additional information about gemcitabine that you may read.

What does my medication look like?

Gemcitabine is available with a prescription under the brand name Gemzar. Other brand or generic formulations may also be available. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist any questions you have about this medication, especially if it is new to you.

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Copyright 1996-2006 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 1.05. Revision Date: 8/31/06 10:10:48 AM.

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