Skip to Content


Generic Name: altretamine (al TRET a meen)
Brand Name: Hexalen

What is Hexalen?

Hexalen is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Hexalen is used to ease the symptoms of ovarian cancer. This medication will not treat the cancer itself.

Hexalen is usually given after other cancer medicines have been tried without success.

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

Important Information

You should not use Hexalen if you have severe nerve problems or severe bone marrow suppression.

Hexalen can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood will need to be tested often.

Hexalen can affect your nervous system. Call your doctor at once if you have severe dizziness, fainting, seizure, or severe numbness, tingling, or cold feeling in your hands or feet.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Hexalen if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • severe nerve problems; or

  • severe bone marrow suppression.

To make sure Hexalen is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

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

It is not known whether Hexalen passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while using this medicine.

How should I take Hexalen?

Hexalen is usually taken 4 times per day. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Hexalen is given in a 28-day treatment cycle, and you may only need to take the medicine during the first 2 or 3 weeks of each cycle. Your doctor will determine how long to treat you with this medicine.

Take Hexalen after meals and at bedtime, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

Hexalen 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.

Your nerve and muscle function may also need to be checked.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss a dose of Hexalen.

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 Hexalen?

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.

Hexalen 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.

Stop using Hexalen and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe numbness, tingling, or cold feeling in your hands or feet;

  • severe or continuous vomiting;

  • fever, chills, flu symptoms, mouth sores, pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness;

  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;

  • severe dizziness or spinning sensation;

  • seizure (convulsions); or

  • upper stomach pain, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Common side effects may include:

  • mild nausea or vomiting;

  • mild numbness or tingling;

  • loss of appetite;

  • mood changes, mild dizziness; or

  • skin rash, itching, hair loss.

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 Hexalen?

Tell your doctor about all medicines you use, and those you start or stop using during your treatment with Hexalen, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with altretamine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist can provide more information about Hexalen.
  • 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.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 4.03.

Date modified: March 06, 2018
Last reviewed: August 04, 2015