Erbitux

Generic Name: cetuximab (se TUX i mab)
Brand Names: Erbitux

What is Erbitux?

Erbitux (cetuximab) is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their growth and spread in the body.

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

Erbitux is often used in combination with other cancer medications.

Erbitux may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important information

Erbitux is often used in combination with other cancer medications and/or radiation treatments.

You should not use Erbitux if you are allergic to cetuximab or to mouse protein.

Before receiving Erbitux, tell your doctor if you have heart rhythm problems, congestive heart failure, breathing problems, coronary artery disease, or low levels of potassium or magnesium in your blood.

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After your Erbitux 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.

Some people receiving a Erbitux 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, weak or dizzy, nauseated, itchy, or have wheezing, noisy breathing, or a hoarse voice during the injection.

To make sure Erbitux is helping your condition and not causing harmful effects, your blood will need to be tested often. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests. Do not miss any follow-up visits to your doctor. Avoid exposure to sunlight or tanning beds while you are receiving this medicine and for at least 2 months after your treatment ends. Erbitux can make you sunburn more easily. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.

Before receiving Erbitux

You should not use Erbitux if you are allergic to cetuximab or to mouse protein.

To make sure you can safely receive Erbitux, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:

  • heart rhythm problems;

  • lung disease or a breathing disorder;

  • congestive heart failure;

  • coronary artery disease (clogged arteries); or

  • an electrolyte imbalance (such as low levels of potassium or magnesium in your blood).

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether Erbitux will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication. It is not known whether cetuximab passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed a baby while you are receiving Erbitux and for at least 60 days after your treatment ends. If you use a breast pump during this time, throw out any milk you collect. Do not feed it to your baby. Whether you are a man or a woman, use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are receiving Erbitux, and for at least 6 months after your treatment ends.

See also: Pregnancy and breastfeeding warnings (in more detail)

How is Erbitux given?

Erbitux is injected into a vein through an IV. You will receive this injection in a clinic or hospital setting. The injection must be given slowly, and the IV infusion can take up to 2 hours to complete. You may be given other medications to prevent certain side effects while you are receiving Erbitux.

Erbitux is usually given once every week for 6 to 7 weeks or until your body no longer responds to the medication. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

Erbitux is often used in combination with other cancer medications and/or radiation treatments. You may receive another cancer medicine 1 hour after your Erbitux injection.

After your 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 your first Erbitux injection 1 week before your radiation treatment. Later doses are usually given 1 hour before radiation treatments.

To make sure this medication is helping your condition and not causing harmful effects, your blood will need to be tested often. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests. Do not miss any follow-up visits to your doctor.

You may need to have blood tests for several weeks after your Erbitux treatment has ended.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your Erbitux infusion.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid?

Avoid exposure to sunlight or tanning beds while you are receiving Erbitux and for at least 2 months after your treatment ends. Erbitux can make you sunburn more easily. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.

Erbitux side effects

Some people receiving a Erbitux 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, weak or 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 to Erbitux: 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:

  • an acne-like skin rash or any severe skin rash;

  • redness, swelling, or puffiness under your skin;

  • eye pain or redness, puffy eyelids, drainage or crusting in your eyes, vision problems, or increased sensitivity to light;

  • chest tightness, dry cough, wheezing, feeling short of breath;

  • feeling like you might pass out;

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

  • fever, chills, flu symptoms, mouth and throat ulcers, rapid heart rate, rapid and shallow breathing;

  • feeling very thirsty or hot, being unable to urinate, heavy sweating, or hot and dry skin; or

  • slow heart rate, weak pulse, fainting, slow breathing (breathing may stop).

Less serious Erbitux side effects may include:

  • dry, cracked, or swollen skin;

  • mild itching or rash;

  • changes in your fingernails or toenails;

  • headache;

  • diarrhea;

  • mild nausea, vomiting, upset stomach;

  • sore throat;

  • weight loss; or

  • weakness.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect Erbitux?

There may be other drugs that can interact with Erbitux. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about Erbitux.
  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Erbitux only for the indication prescribed.
  • Disclaimer: 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 1996-2014 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 7.01. Revision Date: 2012-07-09, 1:37:35 PM.

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