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Can you take prednisone with Keytruda?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Jan 20, 2024.

Official answer


You should only use prednisone with Keytruda if your doctor has specifically prescribed these medicines for you. Prednisone is in a class of drugs known as corticosteroids.

Prednisone may be used to treat serious or life-threatening immune-mediated side effects that may occur due to Keytruda treatment. Keytruda can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in your body and affect how they work. You can have more than one immune-mediated side effect at a time. This problem can happen anytime during or even after treatment.

Immune-mediated side effects with Keytruda that may require corticosteroid treatment include:

  • pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung tissue)
  • colitis (inflammation of the colon)
  • hepatitis and elevated liver enzymes
  • diseases of the endocrine gland (for example, thyroid disease or adrenal gland insufficiency)
  • nephritis (swelling in the kidneys)
  • skin reactions like rash or dermatitis.

Your doctor may want to use prednisone, or another corticosteroid, to help decrease the symptoms of serious immune-mediated side effects you may experience from Keytruda. Your doctor may decide to temporarily withhold Keytruda treatment during corticosteroid treatment, or you may need to completely stop taking Keytruda all together.

Your doctor may also decide to use an alternative treatment or delay your treatment with prednisone.

Prednisone can lower the effects of your immune system. This may decrease the effects of Keytruda and make your treatment less effective or increase your risk of infections.

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about using prednisone during Keytruda treatment. Do not stop using any medications without first talking to your doctor.

Always tell your healthcare providers about all of the medications you use, including prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), vitamins and herbal or dietary supplements.

Keytruda (pembrolizumab), from Merck, is an immunotherapy medicine known as an immune checkpoint inhibitor. It works with your immune system to help fight certain cancers. Prednisone can lower the effects of your immune system, and may lower the effectiveness of Keytruda treatment.

Keytruda is used to treat many different types of cancer including: advanced melanoma (skin cancer), non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck Cancer, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and certain types of colon cancer, among many other cancers.

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

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