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Generic Name: gemcitabine (jem SYE ta been)
Brand Names: Gemzar

Medically reviewed on Jun 5, 2018

What is Gemzar?

See also: Kisqali

Gemzar (gemcitabine) is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Gemzar is used to treat cancers of the pancreas, lung, ovary, and breast.

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

Important information

Gemzar can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, mouth sores, unusual bruising or bleeding).

Gemzar can affect your liver, kidneys, or lungs. Tell your doctor if you have stomach pain, dark urine, yellow skin or eyes, little or no urinating, swelling, rapid weight gain, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, or cough with foamy mucus.

If you receive gemcitabine during or after radiation treatment, tell your doctor right away if you have severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling.

Before receiving Gemzar

You should not use Gemzar if you are allergic to gemcitabine.

To make sure Gemzar is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • kidney disease;

  • liver disease (especially cirrhosis);

  • alcoholism; or

  • radiation treatment.

Do not use Gemzar if you are pregnant. It may harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

You should not breast-feed while you are using gemcitabine.

How is Gemzar used?

Gemzar is injected into a vein as an IV infusion. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when Gemzar is injected.

If any Gemzar injection accidentally gets on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Gemcitabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection by changing the way your immune system works. You will need frequent medical tests.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Contact your doctor if you miss a miss an appointment to receive your Gemzar 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 being near people who are sick or have infections. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding or injury. Use extra care to prevent bleeding while shaving or brushing your teeth.

Gemcitabine can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using Gemzar, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Gemzar side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any signs of an allergic reaction to Gemzar: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

If you receive Gemzar during or after radiation treatment, tell your doctor right away if you have severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling.

A rare but serious side effect of gemcitabine is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the called capillary leak syndrome. Call your doctor right away if you have signs of this condition, which may include: stuffy or runny nose followed by weakness or tired feeling, and sudden swelling in your arms, legs and other parts of the body.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fever, chills, flu symptoms, easy bruising or bleeding (nosebleeds, bleeding gums);

  • blisters or ulcers in your mouth, red or swollen gums, trouble eating or swallowing;

  • severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, confusion, seizure (convulsions);

  • liver problems --nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • signs of damaged red blood cells --bloody diarrhea, stomach pain with vomiting, blood in your urine, pale skin;

  • signs of a kidney problem --little or no urinating, painful or difficult urination, swelling in your feet or ankles; or

  • symptoms of a lung problem --sudden chest pain or discomfort, anxiety, sweating, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, gasping for breath, cough with foamy mucus, severe dizziness.

Common Gemzar side effects may include:

  • nausea, vomiting;

  • fever, unusual bleeding;

  • abnormal blood or urine tests;

  • trouble breathing;

  • swelling in your hands or feet;

  • mild rash; or

  • red or pink urine.

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.

What other drugs will affect Gemzar?

Other drugs may interact with Gemzar, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Gemzar only for the indication prescribed.

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