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Gleevec

Generic Name: imatinib (im MA ta nib)
Brand Names: Gleevec

Medically reviewed on Oct 3, 2018

What is Gleevec?

Gleevec (imatinib) interferes with the growth of some cancer cells.

Gleevec is used to treat certain types of leukemia (blood cancer), bone marrow disorders, and skin cancer.

Gleevec is also used to treat certain tumors of the stomach and digestive system.

Important Information

Gleevec 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, chills, body aches).

Gleevec may increase the risk of liver problems. Tell your doctor if you have upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Gleevec may increase the risk of fluid retention or heart problems. Tell your doctor if you have swelling or rapid weight gain, shortness of breath, fast or slow heart rate, weak pulse, or fainting.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Gleevec if you are allergic to imatinib.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment.

Do not use Gleevec if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby or cause birth defects. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 14 days after your last dose.

Do not breast-feed a baby while you are using Gleevec and for at least 1 month after your last dose.

How should I take Gleevec?

Take Gleevec exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets.

Take Gleevec with a meal and a large glass of water. Do not take Gleevec on an empty stomach.

If you cannot swallow a tablet whole, you may dissolve it in a glass of water or apple juice to make the pill easier to swallow. Use about 2 ounces of liquid for each 100-milligram tablet, or 7 ounces of liquid for each 400-milligram tablet. Stir the mixture and drink all of it right away.

Do not use a broken tablet. The medicine from a broken pill can be dangerous if it gets in your mouth, eyes, or nose, or on your skin. If this happens, wash your skin with soap and water or rinse your eyes with water. Ask your pharmacist how to safely dispose of a broken pill.

Gleevec can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood will need to be tested often. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.

You will also need frequent tests to check your liver function.

Do not stop using Gleevec without your doctor's advice.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

See also: Dosage Information (in more detail)

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take your dose as soon as you can, making sure you also eat a meal and drink a large glass of water. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

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

What should I avoid while taking Gleevec?

Gleevec may cause blurred vision and may impair your reactions. Avoid driving or hazardous activity until you know how this medicine will affect you. Dizziness or severe drowsiness can cause falls, accidents, or severe injuries.

Grapefruit may interact with imatinib and lead to unwanted side effects. Avoid the use of grapefruit products.

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.

This medicine can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). 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.

Gleevec side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Gleevec (hives, difficult breathing, swelling in your face or throat) or a severe skin reaction (fever, sore throat, burning in your eyes, skin pain, red or purple skin rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling).

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fluid retention--shortness of breath (even while lying down), swelling, rapid weight gain;

  • kidney problems--little or no urination, swelling in your feet or ankles;

  • fluid build-up in the lungs--pain when you breathe, wheezing, gasping for breath, cough with foamy mucus;

  • liver problems--upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • low blood cell counts--fever, cold or flu symptoms, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, mouth sores, pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed, cold hands and feet;

  • signs of stomach bleeding--bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds;

  • signs of tumor cell breakdown--confusion, weakness, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, fast or slow heart rate, decreased urination, tingling in your hands and feet or around your mouth; or

  • thyroid symptoms--tiredness, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, depression, slow heart rate, weight gain, feeling more sensitive to cold temperatures.

Imatinib can affect growth in children and teenagers. Tell your doctor if your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medicine.

Common Gleevec side effects may include:

  • fluid retention;

  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea;

  • joint or muscle pain;

  • skin rash; or

  • feeling tired.

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 Gleevec?

Sometimes it is not safe to use certain medications at the same time. Some drugs can affect your blood levels of other drugs you take, which may increase side effects or make the medications less effective.

Tell your doctor about all your current medicines. Many drugs can interact with imatinib, especially:

  • an antibiotic, antifungal, or antiviral medicine;

  • seizure medicine;

  • a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven); or

  • a vitamin or mineral supplement that contains iron.

This list is not complete and many other drugs may interact with imatinib. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Further information

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

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

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