Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jul 21, 2023.
Treatment with cladribine may increase the risk of malignancy. Cladribine is contraindicated in patients with current malignancy. In patients with prior malignancy or with increased risk of malignancy, evaluate the benefits and risks of the use of cladribine on an individual patient basis. Follow standard cancer screening guidelines in patients treated with cladribine.
Risk of Teratogenicity
Cladribine is contraindicated for use in pregnant women and in women and men of reproductive potential who do not plan to use effective contraception because of the potential for fetal harm. Malformations and embryolethality occurred in animals. Exclude pregnancy before the start of treatment with cladribine in females of reproductive potential. Advise females and males of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during cladribine dosing and for 6 months after the last dose in each treatment course. Stop cladribine if the patient becomes pregnant .
Uses for cladribine
Cladribine is used to treat the relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), including relapsing-remitting disease and active secondary progressive disease, in patients who have been previously treated with other medicines that did not work well. Cladribine will not cure MS, but it may slow some of the disabling effects and decrease the number of relapses of the disease.
This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Before using cladribine
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 this medicine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine 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 have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of cladribine in the pediatric population. Use is not recommended in children. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of cladribine in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have age-related liver, kidney, or heart problems, which may require caution in patients receiving this medicine.
Studies in women breastfeeding have demonstrated harmful infant effects. An alternative to this medication should be prescribed or you should stop breastfeeding while using this medicine.
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 this medicine, 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 this medicine 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.
- Measles Virus Vaccine, Live
- Mumps Virus Vaccine, Live
- Rotavirus Vaccine, Live
- Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Varicella Virus Vaccine, Live
- Zoster Vaccine, Live
Using this medicine 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
- Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin Vaccine, Live
- Cholera Vaccine, Live
- Dengue Tetravalent Vaccine, Live
- Influenza Virus Vaccine, Live
- Poliovirus Vaccine, Live
- Smallpox Vaccine
- Typhoid Vaccine, Live
- Yellow Fever Vaccine
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. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other Medical Problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this medicine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Cancer or
- Hepatitis infection, chronic, active or
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or
- Tuberculosis infection, chronic, active—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
- Cancer, history of or
- Heart disease—Use with caution. May increase risk for more side effects.
- Hepatitis B or C or
- Tuberculosis, latent—Use with caution. May make these infections active again.
- Infection, acute—Must be treated first before using this medicine.
- Kidney disease, moderate to severe or
- Liver disease, moderate to severe—Use is not recommended in patients with these conditions.
Proper use of cladribine
Take this medicine only as directed by your doctor. Do not take more of it, do not take it more often, and do not take it for a longer time than your doctor ordered.
You may take this medicine with or without food.
Swallow the tablet whole with water. Do not crush, break, or chew it. Remove the tablet from the blister once you are ready to use it.
Your hands must be dry when handling the tablet. Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. Limit direct skin contact with the tablets and wash the exposed areas thoroughly.
If a tablet is left on a surface or if a broken or fragmented tablet is released from the blister, the area must be thoroughly washed with water.
If you are taking any other oral medicines, take them at least 3 hours before or after using this medicine.
The dose of this medicine 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 this medicine. 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 relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis:
- Adults—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is 3.5 milligrams (mg) per kilograms (kg) of body weight divided into 2 yearly treatment courses (1.75 mg per kg per treatment course). Each treatment course is divided into 2 treatment cycles and will be determined by your doctor.
- Children—Use is not recommended.
- For relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis:
If you miss a dose of this medicine, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not double doses.
This will extend the number of days in that treatment cycle. If you miss 2 doses in a row, extend the treatment cycle by 2 days.
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 cladribine
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure this medicine is working properly. Blood and urine tests may be needed to check for any unwanted effects.
Your doctor will give you a pregnancy test before the start of each treatment course of this medicine. Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Birth control pills may not work as well to prevent pregnancy when used with this medicine. Use another form of birth control (eg, condoms, spermicide) along with your pills during treatment and for at least 4 weeks after the last dose in each treatment course. Men should use an effective form of birth control during treatment and for at least 6 months after the last dose in each treatment course to prevent pregnancy in a sexual partner. If a pregnancy occurs while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
Using this medicine may increase your risk of getting cancer. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about this risk.
Cladribine can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, which will increase the risk of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, these are 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 right away 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 right away 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.
You will need to have a skin test for tuberculosis (TB) before you start this medicine. Tell your doctor if you or anyone in your home has ever had a positive TB skin test or been exposed to TB.
This medicine may increase your risk of developing infections, including a serious brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Check with your doctor if you have weakness on one side of the body, clumsiness, blurred vision, changes in thinking, memory problems, confusion, or personality changes.
While you are being treated with cladribine, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccinations) without your doctor's approval. You may receive live or live-attenuated vaccines at least 4 weeks to 6 weeks before starting this medicine. Cladribine may lower your body's resistance and there is a chance you might get the infection the immunization is meant to prevent. In addition, other persons living in your household should not take oral polio vaccine since there is a chance they could pass the polio virus on to you. Also, avoid persons who have taken oral polio vaccine within the last several months. Do not get close to them, and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you cannot take these precautions, you should consider wearing a protective face mask that covers the nose and mouth.
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.
This medicine may cause serious allergic reactions, which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after using this medicine.
Check with your doctor right away if you have more than one of these symptoms: chest pain, decreased urine output, dilated neck veins, extreme fatigue, irregular breathing, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs, tightness in the chest, trouble breathing, or weight gain. These may be signs of a heart condition called heart failure.
This medicine may cause blood transfusion problems (eg, transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease). Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this.
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 (eg, St. John's wort) or vitamin supplements.
Side Effects of cladribine
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:
- Body aches or pain
- ear congestion
- fast heartbeat
- hives, itching, skin rash
- joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- loss of voice
- lower back or side pain
- painful or difficult urination
- redness of the skin
- runny or stuffy nose
- sore throat
- swelling of the eyelids, face, lips, hands, or feet
- tightness in the chest
- troubled breathing or swallowing
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- Blurred vision
- cough producing mucus
- feeling sad or empty
- lack of appetite
- loss of interest or pleasure
- pounding in the ears
- slow heartbeat
- trouble concentrating
- trouble sleeping
- Burning or stinging of the skin
- painful cold sores or blisters on the lips, nose, eyes, or genitals
- stiff neck
Incidence not known
- Blistering, peeling, loosening of the skin
- chest pain
- muscle pain
- red skin lesions, often with a purple center
- red, irritated eyes
- sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
- swollen glands
- unusual bleeding or bruising
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:
- Back pain
- difficulty in moving
- muscle stiffness
- trouble sleeping
- Thinning or loss of hair
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.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Musculoskeletal Agent
Pharmacologic Class: Antimetabolite
Chemical Class: Purine Nucleoside Analog
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