Tarceva (Erlotinib)

Warning : You may experience many different side effects while receiving this treatment. Be aware of some of the most common symptoms so that if you do experience any side effects, you will recognize them and be able to contact your physician right away.

This drug may cause serious allergic reactions in some rare cases. If you experience dizziness, difficulty breathing, itching and swelling in facial areas, or rashes; you should contact your doctor immediately as these are signs or a potentially several allergy. You may also be more sensitive to infections while on this drug. Some side effects of an infection include a persistent or severe sore throat, a fever, and chills. If you experience any combination of these symptoms you should also contact your doctor. You may also experience diarrhea and vomiting accompanied by blackened stools or dark vomit, which can be signs of severe side effects that you should also call your doctor about. You should also call your physician if you experience a loss of appetite, dehydration, abdominal pain, dry skin, eye irritation, excessive fatigue, dark urine, or yellowing of your eyes or skin.

There are many more symptoms that you might experience, so contact your doctor about any changes in your condition.

Indications: Tarceva is a very powerful drug that is used to combat lung cancer in patients who have not responded to other chemotherapy treatments.  The medication is also used to treat locally advanced, unresectable or metastatic pancreatic cancer in combination with gemcitabine (Gemzar).  This drug is designed to slow down the growth of cancer cells.

Dosage: Tarceva comes as a tablet to take by mouth. This medicine is swallowed and should be taken on an empty stomach for maximum efficiency. Take this medicine two hours after eating, and wait another full hour before you eat another meal. Your doctor may give you more specific instructions that are unique to your situation. This medication should be taken every day, usually just once, and it should be taken at the same time each day.

Do not take antacid medicines or anything containing grapefruit while using this medication.

Try to avoid getting an infection as well as any cuts or bruise, as Tarceva can worsen the effects of infections, bleeding, and bruising. Use caution with sharp objects and wash your hands frequently. Contact your doctor right away if you experience an infection or bleeding.

Overdose: overdosing this drug can cost you your life. The risk of complication increases considerably when the drug is overdosed for a long period of time. Even in the absence of overdose, Tarceva tends to damage the bone marrow, and lead to serious decreased blood cells count. It is extremely important that you take Tarceva as indicated by your physician or pharmacist; don’t ever take it more or more often.

Missing dose: misusing Tarceva is a serious matter. Taking less can decrease the therapeutic effects of the drug; taking more can lead to serious health problems and even death. Do your best to take it around the same time every day; do not miss or take less of it. In case you forget to take a dose, take the missed one as soon as you remember it. However, if it is time for your next dose, do not double it to recover the missed one. Contact your doctor or wait to go back to your regular schedule.

Storage: Tarceva should be kept tightly closed in the container it came, out of the reach of children. The drug must be stored at room temperature, away from heat, light and moisture. Tarceva and all other medications should not be used beyond the expiration date printed on the container.

Mechanism of action (MOA): Tarceva is a kinase inhibitor; it prevents the development and selectively induces death of cancer cells by blocking the action of protein-tyrosine kinase, an abnormal protein that signals cancer cells to multiply.

Contraindications : Tell your doctor about your medical history before you proceed with therapy. You should especially be aware of any history of stomach or intestinal diseases, liver problems, or kidney problems. You should also not be pregnant, become pregnant, or breast-fee while undergoing treatment with this medication.

Interactions: It is recommended to all patients to first contact their physician before consuming grapefruit, aspirin, vitamins, nutritional supplements, or St. John’s wort. Certain substances can interact with tarceva, and increase the risk of the development of side effects.

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any of these medications:

  • Omeprazole
  • Pioglitazone
  • Rifampin
  • Warfarin
  • glucocorticoids (Prednisone, and others)
  • calcium antagonists (Diltiazem, verapamil, and others)
  • macrolide antibiotics (Erythromycin, clarithromycin, and others)
  • anticonvulsants (Phenytoin, carbamazepine, and others)
  • antifungals (Ketoconazole, fluconazole, and others)
  • HIV drugs ( Ritonavir, indinavir, efavirenz, and others)
  • barbiturates (Phenobarbital)
  • Fluoroquinolones (Ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, and others).

Side effects:  Tarceva also interferes with certain normal cells, and cause a number of adverse effects in most patients; common Tarceva side effects include:

  • weight loss
  • hair loss
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sores on your lips or mouth
  • dry mouth
  • change in taste
  • decreased appetite
  • darkening of skin
  • skin rash
  • muscle or limb pain
  • white horizontal discoloration of the nail plate
  • pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Swelling of the arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs

You may need to immediately contact your health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • blurred vision
  • chest pain
  • sunken eyes, scarring or abnormal eyelash growth
  • painful or decreased urination
  • blood in urine or stool
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • blistering, peeling, dry, or cracked skin
  • itching and/or burning of the skin
  • skin rash on the face, upper chest, or back
  • Signs of infections: persistent cough, fever, chills, etc.
  • fainting
  • dry, red, painful, or irritated eyes
  • pain in the arms, neck, or upper back
  • rapid, irregular, or pounding heartbeat
  • weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • black and tarry or bloody stools
  • bloody or coffee-like vomit
  • Redness, warmth, pain, tenderness, or swelling in one leg

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