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Generic Name: Cetuximab (se TUK see mab)
Brand Name: Erbitux

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2020.


  • Some people have had very bad and sometimes deadly side effects during or several hours after the infusion. Most of the time, this happened with the first dose. The chance of an infusion reaction may be raised if you have had a tick bite or red meat allergy. You will be watched closely during and for at least 1 hour after the infusion. Tell your doctor if you have any bad effects during or after the infusion.
  • Rarely, heart attack and sudden death have happened in people taking cetuximab and also getting radiation or other chemo. Tell your doctor if you have ever had heart disease, heart failure (weak heart), or an abnormal heartbeat. If you have questions talk with your doctor.
  • Have blood work checked as you have been told by the doctor. Talk with the doctor.

Uses of Cetuximab:

  • It is used to treat cancer of the head and neck.
  • It is used to treat colorectal cancer.
  • It may be given to you for other reasons. Talk with the doctor.

What do I need to tell my doctor BEFORE I take Cetuximab?

  • If you have an allergy to cetuximab or any other part of cetuximab.
  • If you are allergic to cetuximab; any part of cetuximab; or any other drugs, foods, or substances. Tell your doctor about the allergy and what signs you had.
  • If you are breast-feeding. Do not breast-feed while you take cetuximab or for 2 months after your last dose.

This medicine may interact with other drugs or health problems.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your drugs (prescription or OTC, natural products, vitamins) and health problems. You must check to make sure that it is safe for you to take cetuximab with all of your drugs and health problems. Do not start, stop, or change the dose of any drug without checking with your doctor.

What are some things I need to know or do while I take Cetuximab?

  • Tell all of your health care providers that you take cetuximab. This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.
  • You may have more chance of getting an infection. Wash hands often. Stay away from people with infections, colds, or flu.
  • Avoid sun, sunlamps, and tanning beds. Use sunscreen and wear clothing and eyewear that protects from the sun while taking cetuximab and for at least 2 months after the last dose.
  • It is common for skin reactions to happen with cetuximab. These reactions may include acne-like rash, change in skin or fingernails, dry or cracked skin, or skin irritation. Most of the time, an acne-like rash happened within 2 weeks of starting cetuximab and went away after stopping it. Sometimes, the rash lasted for more than 28 days after stopping cetuximab. Life-threatening and deadly skin reactions (like Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis) have also happened with cetuximab. Call your doctor if you have red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin, or if you have a skin reaction that bothers you.
  • If you have had or will be having radiation treatment, talk with your doctor. Worse side effects from radiation treatment have happened with cetuximab. Sometimes this has been deadly.
  • This medicine may cause fertility problems. This may affect being able to have children. Talk with the doctor.
  • This medicine may cause harm to the unborn baby if you take it while you are pregnant.
  • If you are able to get pregnant, a pregnancy test will be done to show that you are NOT pregnant before starting cetuximab. Talk with your doctor.
  • Use birth control that you can trust to prevent pregnancy while taking cetuximab and for at least 2 months after your last dose.
  • If you get pregnant while taking cetuximab or within 2 months after your last dose, call your doctor right away.

How is this medicine (Cetuximab) best taken?

Use cetuximab as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely.

  • It is given as an infusion into a vein over a period of time.
  • Other drugs may be given to help with infusion side effects.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

  • Call your doctor to find out what to do.

What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Signs of infection like fever, chills, very bad sore throat, ear or sinus pain, cough, more sputum or change in color of sputum, pain with passing urine, mouth sores, or wound that will not heal.
  • Signs of fluid and electrolyte problems like mood changes, confusion, muscle pain or weakness, a heartbeat that does not feel normal, very bad dizziness or passing out, fast heartbeat, more thirst, seizures, feeling very tired or weak, not hungry, unable to pass urine or change in the amount of urine produced, dry mouth, dry eyes, or very bad upset stomach or throwing up.
  • Signs of high or low blood pressure like very bad headache or dizziness, passing out, or change in eyesight.
  • Feeling confused.
  • Mood changes.
  • Eye irritation.
  • Chest pain or pressure or a fast heartbeat.
  • A burning, numbness, or tingling feeling that is not normal.
  • Redness or irritation of the palms of hands or soles of feet.
  • Some people have had lung problems with cetuximab. Sometimes, this has been deadly. Call your doctor right away if you have signs of lung problems like shortness of breath or other trouble breathing, cough that is new or worse, or fever.

What are some other side effects of Cetuximab?

All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away:

  • Hair loss.
  • Feeling tired or weak.
  • Mouth irritation or mouth sores.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Headache.
  • Weight loss.
  • Nose or throat irritation.
  • Not hungry.
  • Bone or joint pain.
  • Change in taste.
  • Constipation, diarrhea, throwing up, and upset stomach are common with cetuximab. If these happen, talk with your doctor about ways to lower these side effects. Call your doctor right away if any of these effects bother you, do not go away, or get very bad.

These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088. You may also report side effects at

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

How do I store and/or throw out Cetuximab?

  • If you need to store cetuximab at home, talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about how to store it.

Consumer information use

  • If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.
  • Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else's drugs.
  • Keep all drugs in a safe place. Keep all drugs out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Throw away unused or expired drugs. Do not flush down a toilet or pour down a drain unless you are told to do so. Check with your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to throw out drugs. There may be drug take-back programs in your area.
  • Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about cetuximab, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.