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Generic name: mechlorethamine (mech klor EH tha meen)
Brand name: Mustargen
Drug class: Alkylating agents

What is mechlorethamine?

Mechlorethamine is used to treat the symptoms of several types of cancer. Mechlorethamine treats only the symptoms of cancer but does not treat the cancer itself.

Mechlorethamine is also sometimes injected into body spaces around the heart, lungs, or stomach to treat fluid retention in these areas caused by cancer.

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

Important Information

A healthcare provider will give you this injection. Mechlorethamine is highly toxic and must be handled with care.

You should not receive mechlorethamine if you have any type of infection.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when mechlorethamine is injected. Call your doctor if you develop any skin changes where an injection was given.

Before taking this medicine

You should not receive mechlorethamine if you are allergic to it, or if you have any type of infection.

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

  • weak immune system (caused by disease or by using certain medicines);

  • a history of herpes zoster (shingles); or

  • if you have recently had radiation or X-ray treatment.

Using mechlorethamine may increase your risk of developing other types of cancer, such as leukemia. Ask your doctor about your specific risk.

Do not receive mechlorethamine if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control to avoid pregnancy during your treatment with mechlorethamine. Follow your doctor's instructions about how long to prevent pregnancy after your treatment ends.

This medication may affect fertility (your ability to have children), whether you are a man or a woman.

It is not known whether mechlorethamine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while receiving mechlorethamine.

How is mechlorethamine given?

A healthcare provider will give you this injection. Mechlorethamine is highly toxic and must be handled with care. You will receive this medicine in a hospital or clinic setting.

You may be given medication to prevent nausea or vomiting while you are receiving mechlorethamine.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when mechlorethamine is injected. Call your doctor if you develop any skin changes where an injection was given.

Either the powder form or mixed liquid form of mechlorethamine can be dangerous if it gets in your eyes, mouth, or nose, or on your skin or clothing. Tell your caregivers if this occurs, wash your skin with soap and water or rinse your eyes with water for at least 15 minutes.

Mechlorethamine 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 kidney and liver function may also need to be checked. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.

What happens if I miss a dose?

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

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 mechlorethamine?

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

mechlorethamine can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. 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.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while receiving mechlorethamine Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Mechlorethamine 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.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

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

  • severe vomiting for longer than 24 hours, or coughing up blood;

  • fever, chills, weakness, flu symptoms, sores in your mouth and throat;

  • pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating;

  • easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;

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

  • hearing problems, ringing in your ears; or

  • severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.

Common side effects may include:

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.

Mechlorethamine dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Malignant Disease:

IV: 0.4 mg/kg either as a single dose or in divided doses of 0.1 to 0.2 mg/kg per day
Intracavitary (intrapleurally, intraperitoneal): 0.4 mg/kg
Intrapericardial: 0.2 mg/kg

-The presence of edema or ascites must be considered so dosage will be based on actual weight unaugmented by these conditions.
-The dosage varies with the clinical situation, the therapeutic response and the magnitude of hematologic depression.

-Intravenously: Palliative treatment of Hodgkin's disease (Stages III and IV), lymphosarcoma, chronic myelocytic or chronic lymphocytic leukemia, polycythemia vera, mycosis fungoides, and bronchogenic carcinoma.
-Intracavitary and Intrapericardial: Palliative treatment of metastatic carcinoma resulting in pleural, peritoneal, and/or pericardial effusion.

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What other drugs will affect mechlorethamine?

Other drugs may interact with mechlorethamine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now 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.