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Erbitux Side Effects

Generic name: cetuximab

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 6, 2023.

Note: This document contains side effect information about cetuximab. Some dosage forms listed on this page may not apply to the brand name Erbitux.

Applies to cetuximab: intravenous solution.


Intravenous route (Solution)

Serious and potentially fatal infusion reactions may occur and require immediate interruption of the cetuximab infusion and permanent discontinuation. Cardiopulmonary arrest and/or sudden death have been reported in patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck treated with radiation therapy and cetuximab or platinum-based therapy with 5-fluorouracil and cetuximab. Monitoring of serum electrolytes during and after cetuximab therapy is recommended.

Serious side effects of Erbitux

Along with its needed effects, cetuximab (the active ingredient contained in Erbitux) may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur while taking cetuximab:

More common

Less common

Incidence not known

Other side effects of Erbitux

Some side effects of cetuximab may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects.

Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to cetuximab: intravenous solution.


Very common (10% or more): Acneiform rash (90%), alopecia (21%), skin fissures (19%), nail disorder (16%), skin disorder (15%), acne (14%)

Common (1% to 10%): Pruritus

Very rare (less than 0.01%): Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic necrolysis

Frequency not reported: Superinfection of skin lesions

Postmarketing reports: Life-threatening/fatal bullous mucocutaneous disease[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Cardiopulmonary arrest and/or sudden death

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Deep vein thrombosis[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Diarrhea (66%), nausea (55%), vomiting (41%), anorexia (36%), constipation (30%), stomatitis (26%), dyspepsia (14%), mucositis, dry mouth (12%)

Postmarketing reports: Mucosal inflammation[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Leukopenia (25%), anemia (16%)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Dyspnea (49%), cough (30%)

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Pulmonary embolism, interstitial lung disease[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Hypomagnesemia (55%), sensory neuropathy (45%), weight loss (21%), peripheral edema (16%), dehydration (15%), severe hypomagnesemia (15%)

Common (1% to 10%): Hypocalcemia, anorexia[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Asthenia (56%), fever (29%), chills (16%), taste disturbance (10%)

Common (1% to 10%): Fatigue

Frequency not reported: Late radiation toxicity[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Conjunctivitis (14%)

Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Blepharitis, keratitis[Ref]

Nervous system

Very common (10% or more): Headache (19%)

Frequency not reported: Aseptic meningitis[Ref]


Common (1% to 10%): Kidney failure[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Mild or moderate infusion related reactions

Common (1% to 10%): Severe infusion related reactions (in some cases fatal)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Infection (13%)

Frequency not reported: Immunogenicity[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Arthralgia (14%), back pain (16%)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): High alanine transaminase (43%), high aspartate transaminase (38%), high alkaline phosphatase (33%)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Insomnia (27%), confusion (18%), anxiety (14%), depression (14%)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Infusion reaction (e.g., chills, rigors, dyspnea, tachycardia, bronchospasm, chest tightness, swelling, urticaria, hypotension, flushing, rash, hypertension, nausea, angioedema, pain, sweating, tremors, shaking, drug fever, or other hypersensitivity reaction) (15%)[Ref]


1. (2004) "Product Information. Erbitux (cetuximab)." Bristol-Myers Squibb

2. Cerner Multum, Inc. "UK Summary of Product Characteristics."

3. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information."

4. Schrag D, Chung KY, Flombaum C, Saltz L (2005) "Cetuximab therapy and symptomatic hypomagnesemia." J Natl Cancer Inst, 97, p. 1221-4

Further information

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

Some side effects may not be reported. You may report them to the FDA.