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Gleevec vs Sprycel vs Tasigna - how do they compare?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Feb 26, 2024.

Official answer


Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna are all prescription medicines used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (a type of blood cancer). Gleevec and Sprycel are also approved for other types of cancers and tumors. These drugs are all classified as BCR-ABL kinase inhibitors and block the enzyme BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase, which is an important pathway in the development of leukemia.

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that usually starts in the white blood cells. Leukemia can be fast-growing (acute) or more slow-growing (chronic).

Certain leukemias are known as Philadelphia positive (Ph+). The BCR-ABL fusion gene (Philadelphia chromosome) is usually found in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and in some patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Tyrosine kinase enzymes are involved in many cell functions, including cell communication, cell maturation, and cell division. Blocking these enzymes may help to slow cancer growth in leukemia.

What are Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna used for?

Gleevec (imatinib) is approved to treat:

  • Philadelphia chromosome positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML)
  • Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL)
  • Myelodysplastic / myeloproliferative diseases
  • Aggressive systemic mastocytosis
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
  • Hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) and / or chronic eosinophilic leukemia (CEL)
  • KIT+ gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST)

Sprycel (dasatinib) is approved to treat:

  • Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myelogenous leukemia (Ph+ CML)
  • Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ ALL)

Tasigna (nilotinib) is approved to treat:

  • Philadelphia chromosome positive chronic myeloid leukemia (Ph+ CML)

Your doctor may also use these medications for purposes not listed in this document. In general, treatment may be continued as long as your disease does not progress or you do not have unacceptable side effects.

How are Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna taken?

Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna are all taken orally by mouth as either a tablet or capsule. Gleevec and Sprycel come as a tablet and Tasigna is available in capsule form. Dosing will differ based on your specific use, your age group, your weight and / or if you have any kidney or liver impairment. Your doctor will tell you your dose and schedule.

  • Gleevec comes as a 100 mg and 400 mg oral tablet. Gleevec is normally taken orally once or twice a day with a meal and a large glass of water.
  • Sprycel is available as a 20 mg, 50 mg, 70 mg, 80 mg, 100 mg, and 140 mg oral tablet. Sprycel is usually taken orally once a day with or without a meal, either in the morning or in the evening.
  • Tasigna comes as 50, 150 and 200 mg capsules. Tasigna is usually taken orally twice a day at 12-hour intervals on an empty stomach. Do not eat any food for at least 2 hours before you take your dose and for at least 1 hour after you take your dose. Swallow the capsules whole with water.

The generic option for Gleevec known as imatinib is available, which may make it more affordable. Sprycel and Tasigna are currently only available as brand name medicines. Check with your prescription insurance or healthcare provider about coverage for these medications. If you qualify, you may be able to receive financial assistance from the manufacturer.

Your healthcare provider will determine the length of time you should take your medicine. In general, these medicines may be continued until disease progression or until no longer tolerated by the patient.

Related Questions

How do side effects compare between Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna?

Side effects for Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna will differ among patients based on clinical use, age and other factors. You may not experience every side effect reported, or you may experience other side effects. It is important to talk to your doctor about the expected side effects and to have a clear understanding of the warnings for use for all of these drugs.

Learn more: Warnings for Gleevec, Sprycel or Tasigna (in detail)

Learn more: Side Effects for Gleevec, Sprycel or Tasigna (in detail)

  • In general, the most common side effects with Gleevec were reported in 30% or more of patients.
  • In patients receiving Sprycel, the most common side effects were reported in 15% or more of adult patients and 30% or more in children.
  • With Tasigna use, the most common side effects in both children and adults were reported in at least 20% of patients.

The most common side effects that have been reported with all three drugs - Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna - include:

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, muscle cramps or muscle and bone pain, and fatigue

The most common side effects that have been reported with both Gleevec and Sprycel include:

  • edema and fluid retention events, stomach (abdominal) pain, muscle pain

The most common side effects that have been reported with both Tasigna and Sprycel include:

  • myelosuppression (a reduced number of blood cells such as red or white blood cells), fever (pyrexia), cough, headache, constipation

The most common side effects that have been reported with Tasigna only include:

  • pruritus (itching), joint pain (arthralgia), nasopharyngitis (common cold), night sweats

The most common side effects that have been reported with Sprycel only include:

  • hemorrhage, shortness of breath (dyspnea), mucositis, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), high blood pressure (hypertension), infections (bacterial, viral and fungal), low blood pressure (hypotension), decreased appetite, allergy (hypersensitivity), nose bleed (epistaxis), peripheral neuropathy, and altered state of consciousness.

This is not all the information you need to know about Gleevec, Sprycel, or Tasigna for safe and effective use and does not take the place of talking to your doctor about your treatment. Review the full Gleevec, Sprycel, or Tasigna information here, and discuss this information and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.


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