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All about: Irinotecan

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Generic Name: Irinotecan (eye-ri-noe-TEE-kan)
Brand Name: Camptosar

Irinotecan can cause severe diarrhea, both early in treatment and 24 hours or more after receiving this drug. The early form of diarrhea may be accompanied by runny nose, increased salivation, tearing eyes, sweating, stomach cramps, or flushing. Using atropine can help with these side effects. The late-onset form of diarrhea (after 24 hours) can persist and may lead to vitamin and mineral imbalances that could be fatal if untreated. Your doctor will give you loperamide for this form of diarrhea. Use the loperamide exactly as directed. You may also be given fluid, vitamin, and mineral replacements. Your doctor may temporarily stop irinotecan if severe diarrhea continues. It may be restarted later at a lower dose. Irinotecan can also cause bone marrow suppression, which can decrease your ability to fight infections or cause bleeding problems. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop signs of infection such as persistent sore throat or fever; unusual fatigue; or easy bruising or bleeding.


Irinotecan is used for:

Treating cancer of the colon or rectum. It may be used alone or in combination with other medicines. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Irinotecan is an antineoplastic agent. It works by interfering with the production of proteins necessary for cancer cell growth and reproduction.

Do NOT use Irinotecan if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in Irinotecan
  • you are taking ketoconazole or St. John's wort

Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.

Before using Irinotecan :

Some medical conditions may interact with Irinotecan . Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breast-feeding
  • if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
  • if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
  • if you have liver disease; a blood disorder; bone marrow depression; kidney or lung disease; or herpes zoster, varicella, or another infection
  • if you have recently had or will be having dental procedures or radiation therapy

Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with Irinotecan . Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:

  • Dexamethasone, diuretics, ketoconazole, other antineoplastic agents, or prochlorperazine because the side effects of Irinotecan may be increased
  • Carbamazepine, hydantoins (eg, phenytoin), phenobarbital, rifabutin, rifampin, or St. John's wort because the effectiveness of Irinotecan may be decreased

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if Irinotecan may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

How to use Irinotecan :

Use Irinotecan as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.

  • Irinotecan is usually administered as an injection at your doctor's office, hospital, or clinic. If you are using Irinotecan at home, carefully follow the injection procedures taught to you by your health care provider.
  • If Irinotecan contains particles or is discolored, or if the vial is cracked or damaged in any way, do not use it.
  • Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids while using Irinotecan .
  • If Irinotecan accidentally spills on your skin, wash it off immediately with soap and water.
  • Keep this product, as well as syringes and needles, out of the reach of children and away from pets. Do not reuse needles, syringes, or other materials. Dispose of properly after use. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain local regulations for proper disposal.
  • If you miss a dose of Irinotecan , contact your doctor immediately.

Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use Irinotecan .

Important safety information:

  • Irinotecan may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Do not drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how you react to Irinotecan . Using Irinotecan alone, with certain other medicines, or with alcohol may lessen your ability to drive or perform other potentially dangerous tasks.
  • If nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite occurs, ask your doctor or pharmacist for ways to lessen these effects.
  • If swelling occurs at the injection site, apply ice to the area.
  • If you experience diarrhea more than 24 hours after receiving a dose of Irinotecan , contact your doctor immediately. Have loperamide available to take at the first sign of a loose stool. Check with your doctor for the appropriate dose.
  • Avoid use of laxatives because of the risk of increased diarrhea. Contact your doctor to discuss any laxative use.
  • Your hair may fall out while using Irinotecan . It usually grows back after treatment.
  • Irinotecan may lower your body's ability to fight infection. Prevent infection by avoiding contact with people with colds or other infections. Notify your doctor of any signs of infection, including fever, sore throat, rash, or chills.
  • Report any symptoms of fluid or electrolyte loss to your doctor (eg, drowsiness, dry mouth, infrequent urination, lack of energy, low blood pressure, muscle pain or cramps, muscle weakness, rapid heartbeat, stomach disorders such as nausea and vomiting, thirst, restlessness, weakness).
  • LAB TESTS, including white blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and platelet counts, may be performed to monitor your progress or to check for side effects. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
  • Use Irinotecan with caution in the ELDERLY because they may be more sensitive to its effects, especially the risk of late-onset diarrhea.
  • Irinotecan is not recommended for use in CHILDREN. Safety and effectiveness have not been confirmed.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Irinotecan may cause harm to the fetus. Avoid becoming pregnant while taking Irinotecan . If you think you may be pregnant, discuss with your doctor the benefits and risks of using Irinotecan during pregnancy. It is unknown if Irinotecan is excreted in breast milk. Do not breast-feed while taking Irinotecan .

Possible side effects of Irinotecan :

All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:

Back pain; constipation; cough; dehydration; dizziness; drowsiness; flushing; gas; hair loss; headache; increased salivation; indigestion; loss of appetite; mouth sores; nausea; runny nose; stomach pain/cramps; sweating; tearing; trouble sleeping; weakness; weight loss.

Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); black or bloody stools; calf pain or tenderness; chest pain; confusion; diarrhea; fainting; fever, chills, or sore throat; lightheadedness; numbness of an arm or leg; one-sided weakness; pain in the groin or lower legs; pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site; severe or persistent dizziness; severe stomach pain; shortness of breath; sudden severe headache; unusual change in the amount of urine; vision or speech changes; vomiting.

This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions or need medical advice about side effects, contact your doctor or health care provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center (http://www.aapcc.org/findyour.htm), or emergency room immediately. Symptoms may include diarrhea.

Proper storage of Irinotecan :

Irinotecan is usually handled and stored by a health care provider. If you are using Irinotecan at home, store Irinotecan as directed by your pharmacist or health care provider. Keep Irinotecan out of the reach of children and away from pets.

General information:

  • If you have any questions about Irinotecan , please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • Irinotecan is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
  • If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.

This information is a summary only. It does not contain all information about Irinotecan . If you have questions about the medicine you are taking or would like more information, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.

Issue Date: September 5, 2007
Database Edition 07.3.1.003
Copyright © 2007 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

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