|Type of medicine||Antineoplastic|
Gastro-intestinal stromal tumours
Imatinib is an anti-cancer medicine used to treat some types of leukaemia which is a cancer of white blood cells. White blood cells usually help the body to fight infection but in leukaemia the development of these white blood cells goes wrong.
Imatinib is also used in some myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative diseases (MDS/MPD) which are a group of blood diseases in which some blood cells start growing out of control. It is also used to treat gastro-intestinal stromal tumour (GIST) which is a rare cancer of the stomach, and also dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) which is a skin cancer.
Imatinib works by preventing the growth and division of cancer cells which stops them from increasing in numbers.
Before taking imatinib
Before taking imatinib make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you have liver, kidney or heart problems.
- If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or intend to have children in the future.
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or any other medicine.
How to take imatinib
- Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack of tablets. Also read carefully the information and the treatment plan you will have been given by your hospital.
- Take imatinib exactly as your doctor has told you to. You will be told how many tablets to take and when to take them, but if you are still unsure about this, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to explain it to you again.
- Swallow imatinib tablets with a full glass of water, with or just after food or a meal. This will help protect your stomach from problems.
- You can swallow the tablets whole, or if you prefer, you can dissolve the tablets in a full glass water or apple juice. If you do this, make sure the tablets have dissolved completely and drink the whole contents of the glass.
- Try to take imatinib at the same times each day to avoid missing any doses. It is important to keep taking imatinib at regular times even if you feel unwell.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- You must avoid getting pregnant or fathering a child while you are taking imatinib. Make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner.
- Keep your regular appointments with your doctor as you will need to have regular blood tests so your progress can be monitored. You will also be weighed regularly as imatinib may cause your body to keep hold of more fluid than normal.
- If you buy or take any other medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take alongside imatinib. Some painkillers such as paracetamol (or preparations containing paracetamol such as cold and flu remedies) and other 'over the counter' medicines, such as St John's Wort, can interfere with the way imatinib works.
- While you are taking imatinib you will have a higher chance of getting an infection. Try avoiding people with infections and let your doctor know straight away if you think you are getting a sore throat or if you have a high temperature.
- Some people who take imatinib can develop a sore mouth. You can help prevent this by brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush 2-3 times daily and using a mouth rinse frequently.
- While you are taking imatinib and for several months after you stop treatment, do not have any immunisations (vaccinations) without talking to your doctor first. Imatinib lowers your body's resistance and there is a chance that you may get an infection from the vaccine.
Can imatinib cause problems?
Your doctor will have discussed with you the possibility of unwanted side-effects of treatment with imatinib and that they may occur after several days or weeks. Let your doctor know if you experience any of the following common problems:
|Common side-effects - these affect about 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this|
|Headache||Do not take paracetamol. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Feeling tired, dizzy||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines|
|Feeling or being sick, indigestion, abdominal discomfort||Eat little and often, and stick to simple or bland foods. Let your doctor know as you can be given an anti-sickness medicine|
|Constipation||Try to eat a well balanced diet containing plenty of fibre, and drink 6-8 glasses of water each day. Let your doctor know about this as you can be given a medicine to help|
|Sore mouth, mouth ulcers||Avoid citrus fruit/drinks as these will aggravate the soreness. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend a suitable gel|
|Rash, itching, muscle cramps, pain, swollen ankles, weight loss, changes in way things taste, difficulty sleeping, eye problems, nose bleeds, loss of hair, numbness of the hands and feet, dry skin or eyes, and hot flushes/sweats||If any of these become troublesome, tell your doctor|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store imatinib
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Glivec® 400 mg Tablets; Manufacturer's PIL, Glivec® 400 mg Tablets, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated February 2011.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen|
|Last Checked: 05/07/2011||Document ID: 3799 Version: 22||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.