Cytarabine

Pronunciation

Generic Name: cytarabine (sye-TAYR-a-been)
Brand Name: No brands available. Generics only.

Cytarabine will be given in a setting where you can be closely monitored by your doctor. Serious and sometimes fatal blood disorders (eg, anemia, bone marrow suppression) have been caused by cytarabine. Liver problems may also develop. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop a fever, unusual fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, a persistent sore throat, easy bruising or bleeding, stomach pain, dark urine, yellowing of skin or eyes, or mouth sores.


Cytarabine is used for:

Treating certain types of leukemia in combination with other medicines. It may also be used to prevent meningeal leukemia. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Cytarabine is an antineoplastic. It works by disrupting the growth of cancer cells.

Do NOT use cytarabine if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in cytarabine

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

Slideshow: Flashback: FDA Drug Approvals 2013

Before using cytarabine:

Some medical conditions may interact with cytarabine. 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 are 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 a history of bone marrow depression, are currently receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or have liver or kidney problems, gout, an infection, chickenpox, or shingles

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

  • Asparaginase because the risk of pancreas problems may be increased
  • Digoxin, flucytosine, or gentamicin because their effectiveness may be decreased by cytarabine

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if cytarabine 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 cytarabine:

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

  • Cytarabine is usually given as an injection at your doctor's office, hospital, or clinic. If you will be using cytarabine at home, a health care provider will teach you how to use it. Be sure you understand how to use cytarabine. Follow the procedures you are taught when you use a dose. Contact your health care provider if you have any questions.
  • Do not use cytarabine if it contains particles, is cloudy or discolored, or if the vial is cracked or damaged.
  • Drinking extra fluids while you are taking cytarabine is recommended. Check with your doctor for instructions.
  • Keep this product, as well as syringes and needles, out of the reach of children and pets. Do not reuse needles, syringes, or other materials. Ask your health care provider how to dispose of these materials after use. Follow all local rules for disposal.
  • If you miss a dose of cytarabine, contact your doctor right away.

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

Important safety information:

  • Cytarabine may cause dizziness. These effects may be worse if you take it with alcohol or certain medicines. Use cytarabine with caution. Do not drive or perform other possibly unsafe tasks until you know how you react to it.
  • If nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite occurs, ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for ways to lessen these effects.
  • If vomiting or diarrhea occurs, you will need to take care not to become dehydrated. Contact your doctor for instructions.
  • If you get cytarabine on your skin, wash immediately with soap and water. Clean any areas (tables, counters) where the medicine may have been spilled or sprayed.
  • Cytarabine may lower the ability of your body to fight infection. Avoid contact with people who have colds or infections. Tell your doctor if you notice signs of infection like fever, sore throat, rash, or chills.
  • Cytarabine may cause ovulation in women who have not reached menopause but do not ovulate. Be sure to use effective birth control while using cytarabine.
  • Cytarabine may reduce the number of clot-forming cells (platelets) in your blood. Avoid activities that may cause bruising or injury. Tell your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding. Tell your doctor if you have dark, tarry, or bloody stools.
  • Do not receive a live vaccine (eg, measles, mumps) while you are taking cytarabine. Talk with your doctor before you receive any vaccine.
  • Lab tests, including liver and kidney function tests, complete blood cell counts, bone marrow exams, and blood uric acid levels, may be performed while you are using cytarabine. These tests may be used to monitor your condition or to check for side effects. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
  • Use cytarabine with caution in the ELDERLY; they may be more sensitive to its effects.
  • Cytarabine may have benzyl alcohol in it. Do not use it in NEWBORNS or INFANTS. It may cause serious and sometimes fatal nervous system problems and other side effects.
  • Use cytarabine with extreme caution in NEWBORNS; safety and effectiveness in these children have not been confirmed.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Cytarabine has been shown to cause harm to the fetus. Do not become pregnant while you are using it. If you think you may be pregnant, contact your doctor. You will need to discuss the benefits and risks of using cytarabine while you are pregnant. It is not known if cytarabine is found in breast milk. Do not breast-feed while taking cytarabine.

Possible side effects of cytarabine:

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:

Diarrhea; dizziness; hair loss; loss of appetite; nausea; tiredness; vomiting; weakness.

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

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); bleeding in the eye; bloody or black, tarry stools; chest pain; confusion; decreased urination; eye pain or irritation; fever, chills, sore throat, or cough; loss of coordination; muscle or bone pain; muscle paralysis; pain, redness, or swelling at the site of injection; personality changes; rectal pain or irritation; shortness of breath; slurred speech; sores on the mouth or lips; stomach pain; symptoms of liver problems (eg, dark urine, pale stools, yellowing of the skin or eyes); unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual drowsiness, tiredness, or weakness; vision changes.

This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, contact your health care provider. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. To report side effects to the appropriate agency, please read the Guide to Reporting Problems to FDA.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center, or emergency room immediately.

Proper storage of cytarabine:

Cytarabine is usually handled and stored by a health care provider. If you are using cytarabine at home, store cytarabine as directed by your pharmacist or health care provider. Store away from heat, moisture, and light. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep cytarabine, as well as syringes and needles, out of the reach of children and away from pets.

General information:

  • If you have any questions about cytarabine, please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • Cytarabine 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.
  • Check with your pharmacist about how to dispose of unused medicine.

This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take cytarabine or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about cytarabine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to cytarabine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using cytarabine.

Issue Date: December 3, 2014
Database Edition 14.4.1.003
Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

Disclaimer: This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this medicine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this medicine.

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