Generic Name: gemcitabine (jem-SYE-ta-been)
Brand Name: Gemzar
Gemcitabine is used for:
Treating certain types of cancer, including cancers of the ovary, pancreas, lung, and breast. Gemcitabine may be used alone or with other cancer medicines. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.
Gemcitabine is an antimetabolite. It works by preventing certain proteins from being made that are necessary for tumor growth.
Do NOT use gemcitabine if:
- you are allergic to any ingredient in gemcitabine
- you are receiving radiation therapy
- you have taken or will be taking palifermin within 24 hours before or after using gemcitabine
Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.
Before using gemcitabine:
Some medical conditions may interact with gemcitabine. 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 bone marrow problems, liver or kidney problems, chickenpox, or shingles
- if you drink alcohol regularly or have a history of alcohol abuse
- if you have recently received or will be receiving radiation therapy
Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with gemcitabine. 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
- Anticoagulants (eg, warfarin) because the risk of bleeding may be increased
- Hydantoins (eg, phenytoin) because their effectiveness may be decreased by gemcitabine, increasing the risk of seizures
This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if gemcitabine 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 gemcitabine:
Use gemcitabine as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.
- Gemcitabine is usually administered as an injection at your doctor's office, hospital, or clinic. If you are using gemcitabine at home, carefully follow the injection procedures taught to you by your health care provider.
- Do not use gemcitabine if it contains particles, is cloudy or discolored, or if the vial is cracked or damaged.
- If gemcitabine accidentally spills on your skin, wash it off immediately with soap and water. Clean any areas (tables, counter) where gemcitabine may have spilled or sprayed.
- 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. 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 gemcitabine, use it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not use 2 doses at once.
Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use gemcitabine.
Important safety information:
- Gemcitabine may cause drowsiness. These effects may be worse if you take it with alcohol or certain medicines. Use gemcitabine with caution. Do not drive or perform other possibly unsafe tasks until you know how you react to it.
- Gemcitabine 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.
- Gemcitabine 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.
- Do not receive a live vaccine (eg, measles, mumps) while you are taking gemcitabine. Talk with your doctor before you receive any vaccine.
- Severe and sometimes fatal lung or breathing problems have occurred with the use of gemcitabine. These problems may occur up to 2 weeks after the last dose of gemcitabine. Tell your doctor right away if you develop shortness of breath, cough, or other breathing problems (eg, wheezing).
- Severe and sometimes fatal kidney or liver problems have occurred with the use of gemcitabine. Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
- The risk of liver problems may be increased if you use other medicines that may harm the liver. The risk may also be increased if you have cancer that has spread to the liver, a history of liver problems (eg, cirrhosis), or alcoholism. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure if any of your medicines may increase the risk of liver problems. Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
- Gemcitabine can cause capillary leak syndrome, a condition that can be life-threatening. Tell your doctor right away if you notice swelling, severe dizziness, fainting, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, trouble breathing, change in the amount of urine produced, mental or mood changes, severe stomach pain, or black stools.
- Lab tests, including liver or kidney function and complete blood cell counts, may be performed while you use gemcitabine. These tests may be used to monitor your condition or check for side effects. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
- Gemcitabine should be used with extreme caution in CHILDREN; safety and effectiveness in children have not been confirmed.
- PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Gemcitabine may cause harm to the fetus. If you become pregnant, contact your doctor. You will need to discuss the benefits and risks of using gemcitabine while you are pregnant. It is not known if gemcitabine is found in breast milk. Do not breast-feed while you are taking gemcitabine.
Possible side effects of gemcitabine:
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:
Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:
Constipation; diarrhea; drowsiness; hair loss; nausea; tiredness; trouble sleeping; vomiting.
Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); blood in the urine; burning, numbness, or tingling; change in the amount or color of urine produced; chest pain; confusion; fainting; irregular heartbeat; one-sided weakness; pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site; painful or frequent urination; severe or persistent dizziness or headache; severe or persistent stomach pain; slurred speech; swelling of the hands, ankles, legs, or feet; swelling or soreness of the mouth or tongue; symptoms of infection (eg, fever, chills, persistent cough or sore throat); symptoms of liver problems (eg, dark urine, pale stools, persistent loss of appetite, stomach pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes); unusual bruising or bleeding; unusual tiredness or weakness; vision problems.
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 gemcitabine:
Gemcitabine is handled and stored by a health care provider. Keep gemcitabine out of the reach of children and away from pets.
- If you have any questions about gemcitabine, please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
- Gemcitabine 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 gemcitabine 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 gemcitabine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to gemcitabine. 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 gemcitabine.
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.