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All about: cetuximab

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Generic Name: cetuximab (seh TUX ih mab)
Brand Names: Erbitux

What is cetuximab?

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

Cetuximab is used to treat cancers of the colon and rectum. It is also used to treat head and neck cancer.

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

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

Do not use cetuximab without first talking to your doctor if you have an allergy to cetuximab or mouse protein. If you have either of these conditions, you may not be able to use cetuximab, or you may need a dosage adjustment or special tests during treatment.

Before receiving cetuximab, tell your doctor if you have heart rhythm problems, congestive heart failure, breathing problems, or coronary artery disease. Tell your doctor if you are also being treated with cisplatin (Platinol).

After you receive this medicine, your doctor will need to watch you for about an hour. This is to make sure you do not have any serious side effects from the medicine.

Some people receiving a cetuximab injection have had a reaction to the infusion (when the medicine is injected into the vein). Tell your caregiver right away if you feel short of breath, dizzy, nauseated, itchy, or have wheezing, noisy breathing, or a hoarse voice during the injection.

To be sure this medication is helping your condition and not causing harmful effects, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. It is important that you not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor. You may need to have blood tests for several weeks after your cetuximab treatment has ended.

Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Cetuximab can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result. Use a sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) and wear protective clothing if you must be out in the sun.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before using cetuximab?

Do not use cetuximab without first talking to your doctor if you have an allergy to cetuximab or mouse protein. If you have either of these conditions, you may not be able to use cetuximab, or you may need a dosage adjustment or special tests during treatment.

Before receiving cetuximab, tell your doctor if you have:

  • heart rhythm problems;

  • lung disease or a breathing disorder;

  • congestive heart failure; or

  • coronary artery disease (clogged arteries).

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

FDA pregnancy category C. This medication may be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. It is not known whether cetuximab passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not take cetuximab without telling your doctor if you are breast feeding a baby.

How should I use cetuximab?

Cetuximab 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 pump, and can take up to 2 hours to complete.

After your cetuximab infusion, your doctor will need to watch you for about an hour. This is to make sure you do not have any serious side effects from the medicine.

If you are also being treated with radiation, you will receive cetuximab one week before your radiation treatment.

To be sure this medication is helping your condition and not causing harmful effects, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. Your kidney or liver function may also need to be tested. It is important that you not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor. You may need to have blood tests for several weeks after your cetuximab treatment has ended.

If you keep this medicine at home, store it in the refrigerator. Do not freeze.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have received too much of this medicine. Symptoms of a cetuximab overdose are not known.

What should I avoid while using cetuximab?

Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds). Cetuximab can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and sunburn may result. Use a sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) and wear protective clothing if you must be out in the sun.

Cetuximab side effects

Some people receiving a cetuximab injection have had a reaction to the infusion (when the medicine is injected into the vein). Tell your caregiver right away if you feel short of breath, dizzy, nauseated, itchy, or have wheezing, noisy breathing, or a hoarse voice during the injection.

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

  • urinating more or less than usual;

  • hot dry skin with weakness or dizziness;

  • confusion; or

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

Other, less serious side effects may also occur, such as:

  • an acne-like skin rash;

  • dry, cracked, or swollen skin;

  • diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite;

  • dry mouth, trouble swallowing;

  • cough or sore throat;

  • weight loss; or

  • weakness.

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 cetuximab?

Before receiving cetuximab, tell your doctor if you are also being treated with cisplatin (Platinol).

There may be other drugs that can affect cetuximab. 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 cetuximab that you may read.

What does my medication look like?

Cetuximab injection is available with a prescription under the brand name Erbitux. 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: 1.02. Revision Date: 5/10/06 3:06:50 PM.

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