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Cancer Glossary Cancer Diet Guide Support Groups

Alimta (Pemetrexed)

 

Warning: With Alimta (pemetrexed), some serious allergic reactions are rare but can occur. You should consult your doctor if you have severe kidney disease, kidney or liver problems or such problems as anemia or leukopenia. This medication can cause drowsiness or fatigue. It may also cause issues with fertility.  

Indications: Alimta is a chemotherapy drug that can be used by itself or along with other medications to treat such cancers as non-small cell lung cancer and mesothelioma.  It makes it hard for the cancer cells to reproduce, thus it can help to stop the growth or slow the spread of cancer cells.  It can effectively treat tumors, but the extent of the cancer as well as the type of cancer will affect its effectiveness.

Dosage form: Alimta is taken by injection into a vein (intravenous, IV), usually associated with cisplatin. In addition, you can be prescribed folic acid and vitamin B12 to supplement your diet in order to reduce the development of side effects.  

Dosage:  Pemetrexed is injected into a vein by your medical professional and the injection takes about ten minutes.  The usual dosage is one injection every three weeks, but it is based on factors that include body size, medical condition, and the way you have responded to therapy.  It is suggested that patients undergoing this type of medical treatment receive vitamin B12 shots and folic acid supplements both before and during the treatment period.   

Some of the side effects that are common following treatments may include loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation.  Severe nausea and vomiting may occur and may require medication.  Head and body aches are also common.  Some patients experience some temporary hair loss.  A skin reaction is common, but most physicians will prescribe some sort of corticosteroid that can be taken near the treatment times.  Rare cases of chest pain and shortness of breath may occur.  Alimta can lessen the ability the body has to fight infection.  It is very important to discuss all of the possible side effects as well as the benefits of using this medication with your physician. 

Contraindication: Women who are pregnant or wish to become pregnant in the near future should not receive this medication and those who are breast-feeding should consult a doctor before taking Alimta.  This medication may cause an inability to have children after it has been taken by either men or women. In general, Alimta is contraindicated in the following conditions: 

  • children or adolescent below 18 years  
  • in association with vaccine against yellow fever  
  • allergy to mannitol, alimta or any of its ingredients  
  • kidney or liver disease  
  • Breastfeeding - Alimta increased the risk of adverse reactions in breastfed infant; therefore, breastfeeding should be discontinued during treatment with alimta; 
  • Pregnancy - Alimta can cause birth defects when administered during pregnancy. It is recommended that all women of childbearing age, and who are sexually active to follow an effective contraceptive method during treatment with alimta to avoid pregnancy. It is also recommended that men do not conceive after 6 months of taking Alimta.  

Interactions: There are some drug interactions that may affect the way pemetrexed works or that could put you at increased risks for side effects.  Some drugs that may cause interactions include NSAIDS such as ibuprofen and naproxen as well as probenecid.  It is always very important to make a list of all medications that you use and discuss the possible interactions with your medical professional.

Side effects: to reduce the occurrence and severity of skin reactions, a corticosteroid is recommended to be administered the day before, the same day and the day after taking Alimta. In general, the dosage is 4 mg of dexamethasone (Decadron) taken by mouth twice a day. In addition, your doctor may recommend you to take folic acid or a multivitamin containing folic acid daily. At least five doses of folic acid must be taken within 7 days before the first dose of Alimta. You should continue taking the supplement during the duration of the treatment and for 21 days following the last day of the therapy.  

You may also be prescribed an intramuscular injection of vitamin B12 in the week preceding the first dose of Alimta and once every three cycles. Subsequent injections of vitamin B12 can take place the same day as the therapy.   

Taking Alimta tends to damage the bone marrow, which causes a deficiency of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. In addition, the toxicity of the drug may cause adverse reaction in most patients. Most common Alimta side effects include: diarrhea, Vomiting, confusion, insomnia, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, loss of taste (dysgeusia), weight loss, fatigue, pale skin or/and skin rashes, hair loss, headache, rapid heart beat, changes in mood, depression, joint or muscle pain, Bowel problems (diarrhea or constipation ).

Contact your health care provider right away if you experience at least one of the following:  

  • dizziness or faintness  
  • chest pain and/or cough 
  • unreasonable bleeding or bruising  
  • difficulty breathing and/or swallowing 
  • difficultor altered speech (dysphonia) 
  • weakness or numbness of an arm or leg  
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet.  

 

 

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