Generic Name: erlotinib (er LOE ti nib)
Brand Name: Tarceva
Medically reviewed on November 1, 2016.
What is erlotinib?
Erlotinib is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their spread in the body.
Erlotinib is usually given after other cancer medicines have been tried without success.
Erlotinib may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Follow all directions on your medicine label and package. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all your medical conditions, allergies, and all medicines you use.
Before taking this medicine
You should not take erlotinib if you are allergic to it.
To make sure erlotinib is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
lung or breathing problems (other than lung cancer);
a history of stomach bleeding;
if you are dehydrated;
if you smoke; or
Do not take erlotinib if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control while you are taking this medication and for at least 1 month after your last dose.
It is not known whether erlotinib passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while taking erlotinib.
How should I take erlotinib?
Follow all directions on your prescription label. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose to make sure you get the best results. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
Take erlotinib on an empty stomach, at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after eating.
You may need frequent medical tests to be sure this medicine is not causing harmful effects. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.
Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember (take only on an empty stomach). Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
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 using erlotinib?
Avoid exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. Erlotinib can cause skin rash, dryness, or other irritation. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.
Avoid using skin products that can cause dryness or irritation, such as acne medications, harsh soaps or skin cleansers, or skin products that contain alcohol.
Avoid smoking. It can make erlotinib less effective.
Avoid taking an herbal supplement containing St. John's wort at the same time you are taking erlotinib.
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.
Erlotinib 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 erlotinib and call your doctor at once if you have:
sudden chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, dry cough, feeling short of breath;
eye pain or irritation, vision problems;
heart attack symptoms--chest pain or pressure, pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder, nausea, sweating;
kidney or liver problems--little or no urinating; swelling, rapid weight gain (especially in your face and midsection); confusion, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); 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:
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite;
cough, trouble breathing;
weakness, tired feeling.
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 erlotinib?
Many drugs can interact with erlotinib. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide. Tell your doctor about all medicines you use, and those you start or stop using during your treatment with erlotinib. Give a list of all your medicines to any healthcare provider who treats you.
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.
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