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Cytarabine

Pronunciation

Generic Name: cytarabine (sye-TAR-a-been)
Brand Name: DepoCyt

Cytarabine will be given in a setting where you can be closely monitored by your doctor because it may cause a side effect called chemical arachnoiditis. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, and fever. This can be fatal if left untreated. Your doctor will usually give you another medicine called dexamethasone to decrease the risk and severity of this side effect.


Cytarabine is used for:

Treating lymphomatous meningitis.

Cytarabine is an antimetabolite. The way cytarabine works is not completely understood. It may work by binding to the RNA or DNA of certain cancer cells, which helps to slow down their growth and reproduction. It may also act by inhibiting an enzyme that works in the cancer cell reproduction.

Do NOT use cytarabine if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in cytarabine
  • you have an infection in the covering of your brain and spinal cord (meningeal infection)
  • you have taken or will be taking palifermin within 24 hours before or after using cytarabine

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

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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 able to become pregnant
  • 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 diabetes or spinal fluid problems, or you are receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • if you cannot take dexamethasone

Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with cytarabine. Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following: Palifermin because if mouth or tongue sores develop, they may be more severe or last longer

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 administered as an injection at your doctor's office, hospital, or clinic. Ask your doctor or pharmacist any questions you have about cytarabine.
  • Do not shake cytarabine.
  • If the medicine contains particles or is discolored, or if the vial/container is cracked or damaged in any way, do not use it.
  • Your doctor will usually prescribe another medicine called dexamethasone to reduce the risk of side effects from cytarabine. It is important to take it. If you develop side effects from dexamethasone or cannot take it, contact your doctor immediately.
  • If you miss a dose of cytarabine, contact your doctor immediately for instructions.

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

Important safety information:

  • Cytarabine may cause drowsiness or 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.
  • Do not receive a live vaccine (eg, measles, mumps) while you are taking cytarabine. Talk with your doctor before you receive any vaccine.
  • Cytarabine may cause spinal cord problems or severe nerve problems, which may rarely lead to permanent nerve problems. The risk may be increased if cytarabine is used along with other chemotherapy medicines or with head or spine radiation therapy. Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
  • Cytarabine may reduce the number of clot-forming cells (platelets) in your blood. To prevent bleeding, avoid situations in which bruising or injury may occur. Report any unusual bleeding, bruising, blood in stools, or dark, tarry stools to your doctor.
  • If you spill cytarabine on your skin, wash it off right away with soap and water. If cytarabine comes into contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth, flush thoroughly with 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.
  • Diabetes patients - Cytarabine may raise your blood sugar. High blood sugar may make you feel confused, drowsy, or thirsty. It can also make you flush, breathe faster, or have a fruit-like breath odor. If these symptoms occur, tell your doctor right away.
  • If you are able to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about using an effective form of birth control.
  • Lab tests, including liver and kidney function tests and complete blood cell count, may be performed to monitor your progress or to check for side effects. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
  • Use cytarabine with extreme caution in CHILDREN; safety and effectiveness in children have not been confirmed.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Cytarabine has been shown to cause harm to the fetus. Avoid becoming pregnant while you are taking 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:

Change in appetite; constipation; cough; diarrhea; dizziness; drowsiness; mouth or tongue sores; stomach pain; tiredness; 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); back pain; bowel or bladder problems; burning, pain, numbness, or tingling; confusion; decreased sense of touch; difficult or painful urination; difficulty walking; fast or irregular heartbeat; fainting; fever, chills, or persistent sore throat; headache; hearing problems (eg, hearing loss); joint pain; memory problems; mental or mood changes (eg, agitation, anxiety, depression); muscle pain, weakness, or cramping; nausea; neck pain or rigidity; one-sided weakness; pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site; seizures; severe or persistent dizziness, drowsiness, or light-headedness; severe or persistent dry mouth or eyes; shortness of breath; sluggishness; swelling of the hands, ankles, or feet; tremor; trouble sleeping; trouble swallowing; unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual tiredness or weakness; vision problems (eg, blurred vision, vision loss); vomiting.

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. Symptoms may include fever; severe or persistent headache, nausea, or vomiting.

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. Keep cytarabine 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: April 2, 2014
Database Edition 14.2.1.001
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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