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BiCNU (injection/implant)

Generic name: carmustine (injection/implant) [ kar-MUS-teen ]
Brand names: BiCNU, Gliadel
Drug class: Alkylating agents

Medically reviewed by on Jun 15, 2022. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is BiCNU?

BiCNU is used to treat brain tumors, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

BiCNU is sometimes given with other cancer medicines, with radiation or after brain surgery.

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


BiCNU can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. This medicine can also cause serious lung problems. You will need frequent medical tests while receiving BiCNU. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, tiredness, weakness, or breathing problems.

Before taking this medicine

You should not be treated with BiCNU if you are allergic to it.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • lung disease or breathing problems;

  • bone marrow suppression; or

  • kidney disease.

Receiving BiCNU injection may increase your risk of developing other cancers, such as leukemia. Ask your doctor about this risk.

BiCNU may harm an unborn baby if the mother or the father is using this medicine.

  • If you are a woman, do not use BiCNU if you are pregnant. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while receiving this medicine. Keep using birth control for at least 6 months after your last injection or after implant placement.

  • If you are a man, use effective birth control if your sex partner is able to get pregnant. Keep using birth control for at least 3 months after your last injection or after implant placement.

  • Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is using BiCNU.

This medicine may affect fertility (ability to have children) in men. However, it is important to use birth control to prevent pregnancy because BiCNU can harm an unborn baby.

Do not breastfeed while receiving BiCNU injection, or for at least 7 days after this medicine implant placement.

How is BiCNU given?

BiCNU injection is given as an infusion into a vein, usually once every 6 weeks. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

BiCNU must be given slowly, and the infusion can take at least 2 hours to complete.

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

BiCNU implant is placed in your brain after brain tumor surgery.

BiCNU can increase your risk of bleeding or infection. You will need frequent medical tests. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results.

BiCNU can have long-lasting effects on your body. Your blood will need to be tested weekly for at least 6 weeks after each dose.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your BiCNU.

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 receiving BiCNU?

Follow your doctor's instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

BiCNU side effects

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

You may have an infusion reaction during the injection or within 2 hours afterward. This may include skin redness, eye redness and severe warmth or tingling under your skin.

Some side effects may not occur many weeks or even years after you receive BiCNU.

BiCNU may cause serious side effects. Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • easy bruising, unusual bleeding;

  • a seizure;

  • unexplained weight loss;

  • little or no urination; or

  • pain, burning, swelling, or skin changes where the injection was given;

  • slow healing of your incision after BiCNU implant placement;

  • lung problems--a dry cough or hack, shortness of breath (especially with exercise), rapid but shallow breathing, tiredness, body aches, clubbing (widening and rounding) of your fingertips or toes;

  • increased pressure inside your skull--sudden vision problems, severe headache, vomiting, dizziness; or

  • signs of meningitis--fever, neck stiffness, increased sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness.

Common side effects of BiCNU may include:

  • bleeding, bruising;

  • tiredness;

  • nausea, vomiting; or

  • breathing problems.

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 BiCNU?

Other drugs may affect BiCNU, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines 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 this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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