Medically reviewed: June 29, 2017
What is methotrexate?
Methotrexate interferes with the growth of certain cells of the body, especially cells that reproduce quickly, such as cancer cells, bone marrow cells, and skin cells.
Methotrexate is usually given after other medications have been tried without successful treatment of symptoms.
Methotrexate may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Methotrexate is usually not taken every day. You must use the correct dose of methotrexate for your condition. Some people have died after taking methotrexate every day by accident.
Do not use methotrexate if you are pregnant or breast-feeding a baby.
Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches).
Methotrexate can cause serious or life-threatening side effects on your liver, lungs, or kidneys. Tell your doctor if you have upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dry cough, shortness of breath, blood in your urine, or little or no urinating.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to methotrexate. Do not use methotrexate to treat psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis if you have:
alcoholism, cirrhosis, or other liver disease;
a blood cell disorder such as anemia (lack of red blood cells) or leukopenia (lack of white blood cells);
a bone marrow disorder; or
if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Methotrexate is sometimes used to treat cancer even when patients do have one of the conditions listed above. Your doctor will decide if this treatment is right for you.
To make sure methotrexate is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
a folate deficiency;
pneumonia or lung disease;
any type of infection; or
if you are receiving radiation treatments.
Methotrexate can cause birth defects in an unborn baby. Do not use methotrexate to treat psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis if you are pregnant. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant during treatment.
You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment.
Use birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using methotrexate, whether you are a man or a woman. Methotrexate use by either parent may cause birth defects.
If you are a man, use a condom to keep from causing a pregnancy while you are using methotrexate. Continue using condoms for at least 3 months after your last dose.
If you are a woman, use an effective form of birth control while you are taking methotrexate, and for 6 months after your last dose.
This medicine may affect fertility (your ability to have children), whether you are a man or a woman.
Methotrexate can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while using this medicine.
Do not give this medicine to a child without the advice of a doctor.
How should I take methotrexate?
Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
You must use the correct dose of methotrexate for your condition. Methotrexate is sometimes taken once or twice per week and not every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label. Some people have died after taking methotrexate every day by accident. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about your dose of methotrexate or how often to take it.
Measure liquid medicine with the dosing syringe provided, or with a special dose-measuring spoon or medicine cup. If you do not have a dose-measuring device, ask your pharmacist for one.
Use methotrexate regularly to get the most benefit. Get your prescription refilled before you run out of medicine completely.
Methotrexate can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood will need to be tested often, and you may need an occasional liver biopsy. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.
Store tablets at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
Store the liquid medicine in the refrigerator, do not freeze.
You may also store the liquid at room temperature fr up to 60 days.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Call your doctor for instructions if you miss a dose of methotrexate.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222. An overdose of methotrexate can be fatal.
What should I avoid while taking methotrexate?
Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using methotrexate, or you could develop a serious infection. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.
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.
Avoid exposure to sunlight or artificial UV rays (sunlamps or tanning beds), especially if you are being treated for psoriasis. Methotrexate can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and your psoriasis may worsen.
Avoid drinking alcohol while taking methotrexate.
Methotrexate side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Stop using methotrexate and call your doctor at once if you have:
dry cough, shortness of breath;
blood in your urine or stools;
swelling, rapid weight gain, little or no urinating;
fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms;
pale skin, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, weakness, feeling light-headed or short of breath;
liver problems--nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, 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.
Older adults may be more likely to have side effects from this medicine.
Common side effects may include:
changes in your menstrual periods
vomiting, upset stomach;
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 methotrexate?
Many drugs can interact with methotrexate. Not all possible interactions are listed here. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:
an antibiotic or sulfa drugs;
This list is not complete and many other drugs can interact with methotrexate. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. 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.
Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 13.01.
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- Drug class: antimetabolites