Generic name: epirubicin (ep-i-ROO-bi-sin hye-droe-KLOR-ide)
Drug class: Antibiotics / antineoplastics
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 16, 2021.
Myocardial damage, including acute left ventricular failure, can occur with epirubicin. The risk of cardiomyopathy is proportional to the cumulative exposure with incidence rates from 0.9% at a cumulative dose of 550 mg/m(2), 1.6% at 700 mg/m(2), and 3.3% at 900 mg/m(2) and is further increased with concomitant cardiotoxic therapy. Assess left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) before and regularly during and after treatment with epirubicin. Secondary acute myelogenous leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome occur at a higher incidence in patients treated with anthracyclines, including epirubicin. Extravasation of epirubicin can result in severe local tissue injury and necrosis requiring wide excision of the affected area and skin grafting. Immediately terminate the drug and apply ice to the affected area. Severe myelosuppression resulting in serious infection, septic shock, requirement for transfusions, hospitalization, and death may occur .
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
- Pharmorubicin Pfs
Available Dosage Forms:
Therapeutic Class: Antineoplastic Agent
Chemical Class: Epirubicin
Uses for epirubicin
Epirubicin injection is used together with other cancer medicines to treat breast cancer in patients who have had surgery to remove the tumor.
Epirubicin belongs to the group of medicines called antineoplastics. It interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal body cells may also be affected, other unwanted effects will also occur. Some of these may be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Other effects, like hair loss, may not be serious but may cause concern. Some effects may not occur until months or years after the medicine is used.
Epirubicin is to be given only by or under the immediate supervision of your doctor.
Before using epirubicin
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 epirubicin, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to epirubicin 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 epirubicin injection in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of epirubicin injection in the elderly. However, elderly patients are more likely to have unwanted side effects, which may require caution and an adjustment in the dose for patients receiving epirubicin injection.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
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 receiving epirubicin, 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 epirubicin 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 epirubicin 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
Using epirubicin 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. 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 epirubicin. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Blood clots (eg, pulmonary embolism, thrombophlebitis) or
- Congestive heart failure or
- Gout, or history of or
- Heart disease—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.
- Heart attack, recent or
- Heart disease, severe or
- Heart rhythm problems (eg, arrhythmia), severe or
- Liver disease, severe—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
- Infection—May decrease your body's ability to fight an infection.
- Kidney disease, severe or
- Liver disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal of the medicine from the body.
Proper use of epirubicin
Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many unwanted effects. Before receiving epirubicin, you and your doctor should talk about the benefits epirubicin will do as well as the risks of using it.
A doctor or other trained health professional will give you epirubicin in a hospital or cancer treatment center. Epirubicin is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.
Epirubicin must be given slowly, so the IV tube must remain in place for at least 15 to 20 minutes. It is usually given every 3 to 4 weeks.
Epirubicin is sometimes given together with other medicines. If you are receiving a combination of medicines, it is important that you receive each one at the proper time. If you are taking some of these medicines by the mouth, ask your doctor to help you plan a way to take them at the right times.
You may also receive other medicines to help prevent allergic reactions and nausea or vomiting from epirubicin.
While you are using epirubicin, your doctor may want you to drink extra fluids so that you will pass more urine. This will help prevent kidney problems and keep your kidneys working well.
Precautions while using epirubicin
It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that epirubicin is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Using epirubicin while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. If you are a woman who can bear children, your doctor may give you a pregnancy test before starting epirubicin to make sure you are not pregnant. Female patients should use effective birth control during treatment with epirubicin and for at least 6 months after the last dose. Male patients who have female partners should use effective birth control during treatment with epirubicin and for at least 3 months after the last dose. Male patients with pregnant partners should use condoms during treatment and for at least 7 days after the last dose. If you think you have become pregnant while using epirubicin, tell your doctor right away.
Your doctor may monitor your heart before you start receiving epirubicin and while you are getting treatments with epirubicin. Call your doctor right away if you have any chest pain, increased coughing, trouble breathing, a sudden difficulty with breathing at night, rapid weight gain, or abnormal swelling in your ankles or legs. These could be symptoms of serious heart problems.
Epirubicin should not be used within 24 weeks of stopping trastuzumab (Herceptin) unless your doctor has determined that it is the best treatment.
Epirubicin can rarely cause leukemia (cancer of the blood). Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this.
While you are being treated with epirubicin, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccinations) without your doctor's approval. Epirubicin may lower your body's resistance, and there is a chance you might get the infection the immunization 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.
Epirubicin can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing 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.
If epirubicin accidentally leaks out of the vein into which it is injected, it may damage some tissues and may cause scarring. Tell the doctor right away if you notice redness, pain, or swelling at the injection site.
Epirubicin may cause a serious type of reaction called tumor lysis syndrome. Your doctor may give you a medicine to help prevent this. Call your doctor right away if you have a decrease or change in urine amount, joint pain, stiffness, or swelling, lower back, side, or stomach pain, a rapid weight gain, swelling of the feet or lower legs, or unusual tiredness or weakness.
Epirubicin may increase your risk of developing blood clots. If you have chest pain, trouble breathing, or pain, redness, or swelling in your arms or legs while using epirubicin, call your doctor right away.
Epirubicin may turn your urine red for 1 or 2 days after your treatment. This is normal and is nothing to worry about. You may want to protect your clothing from being stained.
Epirubicin often causes a temporary and total loss of hair. After treatment with epirubicin has ended, normal hair growth should return.
Cancer medicines can cause nausea and vomiting, in most people, sometimes even after receiving medicines to prevent it. Ask your doctor or nurse about other ways to control these unwanted effects if you still have nausea or vomiting after receiving the medicine.
If you plan to have children, talk with your doctor before using epirubicin. Some men and women using epirubicin have become infertile (unable to have children).
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.
Epirubicin 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 or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Black, tarry stools
- bleeding, redness, or ulcers in the mouth or throat
- chest pain
- cough or hoarseness
- fever or chills
- lower back or side pain
- pain or burning in the mouth or throat
- painful or difficult urination
- sore throat
- sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
- swollen glands
- trouble breathing
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- Blood in the urine or stools
- pinpoint red spots on the skin
- red streaks along the injected vein
- Darkening or redness of the skin at the place of irradiation
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- joint pain
- pain, redness, or warmth at the injection site
- skin rash or itching
- swelling of the abdomen or stomach, lower legs, and feet
- swelling or tenderness of the lymph nodes, abdomen, side or lower back
Get emergency help immediately if any of the following symptoms of overdose occur:
Symptoms of overdose
- Abdominal or stomach swelling or tenderness
- high fever
- stomach pain
- swelling of the lining of the mouth, nose, or throat
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:
- Absent, missed, or irregular menstrual periods
- burning, dry, or itching eyes
- discharge or excessive tearing
- feeling of warmth
- hair loss or thinning of the hair
- redness of the face, neck, arms, and occasionally, upper chest
- redness, pain, or swelling of the eye, eyelid, or inner lining of the eyelid
- stopping of menstrual bleeding
- sudden sweating
- unusual drowsiness, dullness, tiredness, weakness, or feeling of sluggishness
- Changes in the skin
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- Darkening of the soles, palms, or nails
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.
More about epirubicin
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- Pricing & Coupons
- En Español
- Drug class: antibiotics/antineoplastics
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