methotrexate (Oral route)Pronunciation
Only for life-threatening neoplastic disease or severe rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis unresponsive to other therapies. Death, fetal death and/or congenital anomalies, lung disease, tumor lysis syndrome, fatal skin reactions, and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia have been reported. Monitor for bone marrow, liver, lung, and kidney toxicities. Unexpectedly severe (sometimes fatal) bone marrow suppression, aplastic anemia, and gastrointestinal toxicity have been reported with concomitant administration of methotrexate (usually in high dosage) along with some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Hepatotoxicity, fibrosis, and cirrhosis occur with prolonged use. Diarrhea and ulcerative stomatitis require interruption of therapy. Methotrexate elimination is reduced in patients with impaired renal functions, ascites, or pleural effusions. Increased risk of soft tissue necrosis and osteonecrosis with concomitant radiotherapy. Malignant lymphoma may occur .
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
- Rheumatrex Dose Pack
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Antineoplastic Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Antimetabolite
Uses For methotrexate
Methotrexate is used alone or together with other medicines to treat several types of cancer such as breast, head and neck, lung, blood, bone, lymph node, and uterus cancers.
Methotrexate is used to treat adults with severe rheumatoid arthritis and children with polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis who had other treatments that did not work well. It is also used to control symptoms of severe psoriasis in adults who have not been helped by other treatments.
Methotrexate belongs to the group of medicines known as antineoplastics (cancer medicines). It blocks an enzyme that is needed by cells to live. This interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed by the body. For patients with arthritis or psoriasis, methotrexate may work by improving the immune system.
methotrexate is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Once a medicine has been approved for marketing for a certain use, experience may show that it is also useful for other medical problems. Although these uses are not included in product labeling, methotrexate is used in certain patients with the following medical conditions:
- Acute myeloid leukemia (blood and immune system cancer).
- Bladder cancer.
- Brain lymphoma (tumor).
- Bullous pemphigoid (immune system disease).
- Cancer of the penis.
- Crohn disease (intestine or bowel disease).
- Eye lymphoma (tumor).
- Felty syndrome (condition with rheumatoid arthritis, large spleen, and low white blood cells).
- Hodgkin disease (lymph system cancer).
- Ovarian cancer (ovaries).
- Soft tissue sarcoma (tumor in connective tissue).
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (immune disease).
- Urinary tract cancer (urine system).
Before Using methotrexate
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For methotrexate, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to methotrexate or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of methotrexate for the treatment of cancer and juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children. However, safety and efficacy have not been established in children with psoriasis.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of methotrexate in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have kidney problems, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose.
|All Trimesters||X||Studies in animals or pregnant women have demonstrated positive evidence of fetal abnormalities. This drug should not be used in women who are or may become pregnant because the risk clearly outweighs any possible benefit.|
Studies in women breastfeeding have demonstrated harmful infant effects. An alternative to this medication should be prescribed or you should stop breastfeeding while using methotrexate.
Interactions with Medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking methotrexate, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using methotrexate with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
- Rotavirus Vaccine, Live
Using methotrexate with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
- Adenovirus Vaccine Type 4, Live
- Adenovirus Vaccine Type 7, Live
- Amtolmetin Guacil
- Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin Vaccine, Live
- Chloral Hydrate
- Choline Salicylate
- Flufenamic Acid
- Ibuprofen Lysine
- Influenza Virus Vaccine, Live
- Measles Virus Vaccine, Live
- Mefenamic Acid
- Mumps Virus Vaccine, Live
- Niflumic Acid
- Penicillin G
- Penicillin V
- Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Salicylic Acid
- Smallpox Vaccine
- Sodium Salicylate
- Tiaprofenic Acid
- Tolfenamic Acid
- Typhoid Vaccine
- Varicella Virus Vaccine
- Yellow Fever Vaccine
Using methotrexate with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using methotrexate with any of the following is usually not recommended, but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use methotrexate, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other Medical Problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of methotrexate. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Alcohol abuse, or history of or
- Anemia or
- Leukopenia (low white blood cells) or
- Liver disease, severe or
- Thrombocytopenia (low platelet blood level) or
- Weak immune system—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
- Ascites (extra fluid in the stomach area) or
- Kidney disease or
- Pleural effusion (extra fluid in the lung)—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
- Diabetes or
- Liver disease or
- Obesity or
- Peptic ulcers or
- Ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the colon)—Use with caution. May cause side effects to become worse.
- Infection (bacteria, fungus, virus)—Use with caution. May decrease your ability to fight an infection.
Proper Use of methotrexate
Take methotrexate only as directed by your doctor. Do not use more of it, do not use it more often, and do not use it for a longer time than your doctor ordered.
The dose of methotrexate will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of methotrexate. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
- For oral dosage form (tablets):
- For cancer:
- Adults—Dose is based on type of cancer and body size and must be determined by your doctor. A dose of 10 to 30 milligrams (mg) once per day may be given for several days and then repeated after a rest period. For some conditions, 5 to 50 mg once per week may be used. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
- Children—Dose is based on type of cancer and body size and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is generally given once per day for several days and then repeated after a rest period. The dose may also be given once per week. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
- For psoriasis:
- Adults—At first, 10 to 25 milligrams (mg) once per week or 2.5 mg every 12 hours for 3 doses once each week. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed. However, the dose is usually not more than 30 mg once per week.
- Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
- For rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile arthritis:
- Adults—At first, 7.5 milligrams (mg) once per week or 2.5 mg every 12 hours for 3 doses once each week. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
- Children—Dose is based on body size and must be determined by your doctor. The starting dose is 10 milligrams (mg) per square meter (m(2)) of body size once per week. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed.
- For cancer:
methotrexate needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, call your doctor or pharmacist for instructions.
Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep from freezing.
Keep out of the reach of children.
Do not keep outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
Ask your healthcare professional how you should dispose of any medicine you do not use.
Precautions While Using methotrexate
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure methotrexate is working properly and to check for unwanted effects. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Using methotrexate while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. The medicine may also cause birth defects if it is used by the father when his sexual partner becomes pregnant. Men should use birth control during and for at least 3 months after the last dose. Women should use birth control during and for at least one menstrual cycle after the last dose. Tell your doctor right away if pregnancy occurs while you are using methotrexate.
Talk with your doctor before using methotrexate if you plan to have children. Some men and women who use methotrexate have become infertile (unable to have children).
Limit alcohol use with methotrexate. Alcohol may increase the risk for liver problems.
Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.
Methotrexate can lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, which increases the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:
- If you can, avoid people with infections. Check with your doctor immediately if you think you are getting an infection or if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.
- Check with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising, black, tarry stools, blood in the urine or stools, or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
- Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may recommend other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Check with your medical doctor before having any dental work done.
- Do not touch your eyes or the inside of your nose unless you have just washed your hands and have not touched anything else in the meantime.
- Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
- Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur.
While you are being treated with methotrexate, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccines) without your doctor's approval. Methotrexate may lower your body's resistance and the vaccine may not work as well or you might get the infection the vaccine is meant to prevent. In addition, you should not be around other persons living in your household who receive live virus vaccines because there is a chance they could pass the virus on to you. Some examples of live vaccines include measles, mumps, influenza (nasal flu vaccine), poliovirus (oral form), rotavirus, and rubella. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
Serious skin reactions can occur with methotrexate. Check with your doctor right away if you have blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, red skin lesions, severe acne or a skin rash, sores or ulcers on the skin, or fever or chills while you are using methotrexate.
methotrexate may cause a serious reaction called tumor lysis syndrome. Tell your doctor right away if you have a change in urine amount, joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, lower back, side, or stomach pain, rapid weight gain, swelling of the feet or lower legs, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.
methotrexate Side Effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:More common
- Black, tarry stools
- blood in the urine or stools
- bloody vomit
- joint pain
- reddening of the skin
- sores in the mouth or lips
- stomach pain
- swelling of the feet or lower legs
- Back pain
- blurred vision
- convulsions (seizures)
- cough or hoarseness
- dark urine
- fever or chills
- lower back or side pain
- painful or difficult urination
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- shortness of breath
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- yellow eyes or skin
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:More common
- Hair loss, temporary
- loss of appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- boils on skin
- pale skin
- skin rash or itching
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
See also: Side effects (in more detail)
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