Pemetrexed

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
pemetrexed Alimta

How It Works

Pemetrexed interferes with the cancer cell's ability to reproduce. Pemetrexed is an intravenous (IV) medicine that is usually given in a dose based on body surface area. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule of administering this drug.

Why It Is Used

Pemetrexed slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is used to treat cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer.

How Well It Works

Pemetrexed is an effective antitumor medicine. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Signs of infection such as a fever or chills.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • A lack of energy (fatigue) caused by anemia.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy).
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Rash.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis).

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Pemetrexed should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist. He or she will regularly monitor your blood cell counts and your kidney and liver functions.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Talk with your doctor about fertility before starting treatment.

Your doctor can prescribe medicines to help you manage any nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

People who use pemetrexed will need to take vitamin B12, folate, and corticosteroids to decrease the risk of side effects from this medicine.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, are often stopped for 2 days before and during treatment with pemetrexed, to avoid kidney problems.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised September 12, 2012

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