Abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®)

About This Drug

Abiraterone acetate is used to treat cancer. It is given by orally (by mouth).

Possible Side Effects

  • Tiredness
  • Pain in the joints
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles and/or feet
  • Hot flashes or sudden skin flushing may happen. You may also feel warm or red.
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • High blood pressure. Your doctor will check your blood pressure as needed.
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Urinary tract infection.  Symptoms may include:
    • Pain or burning when you pass urine
    • Feeling like you have to pass urine often, but not much comes out when you do
    • Tender or heavy feeling in your lower abdomen
    • Cloudy urine and/or urine that smells bad
    • Pain on one side of your back under your ribs. This is where your kidneys are.
    • Fever, chills, nausea and/or throwing up
  • Bruising
  • Decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue).
  • Changes in your liver function. Your liver function will be checked as needed. 
  • Increase in your cholesterol level and triglycerides. Your cholesterol and triglycerides will be checked as needed.
  • Blood sugar levels may changes. If you have diabetes, changes may need to be made to your diabetes medication.
  • Electrolyte changes.  Your blood will be checked for electrolyte changes as needed.
Note: Each of the side effects above was reported in 10-20% or greater of patients treated with abiraterone acetate. Not all possible side effects are included above.

Warnings and Precautions

  • Severe high blood pressure
  • Severe low potassium
  • Severe swelling and/or weight gain
  • Changes in your adrenal gland function
  • Changes in your liver function which can rarely lead to liver failure. Your liver function will be checked as needed 

Important Information

  • Swallow the medicine whole with water. Do not crush, or chew tablets.
  • Take this drug by mouth without food, at least 2 hour before you eat or 1 hour after you eat, at approximately the same time each time it is scheduled.>
  • Missed dose: If you vomit or miss a dose, take your next dose at the regular time. Do not take 2 doses at the same time.
  • Handling: Wash your hands after handling your medicine, your caretakers should not handle your medicine with bare hands and should wear latex gloves.
  • This drug may be present in the saliva, tears, sweat, urine, stool, vomit, semen, and vaginal secretions. Talk to your doctor and/or your nurse about the necessary precautions to take during this time.
  • Storage: Store this medicine in the original container at room temperature. Discuss with your nurse or your doctor how to dispose of unused medicine.

Treating Side Effects

  • Manage tiredness by pacing your activities for the day.
  • Be sure to include periods of rest between energy-draining activities.
  • To decrease your risk of infection, wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have a cold, the flu, or other infections.
  • Take your temperature as your doctor or nurse tells you, and whenever you feel like you may have a fever.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (a minimum of eight glasses per day is recommended).
  • If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • If you get diarrhea, eat low-fiber foods that are high in protein and calories and avoid foods that can irritate your digestive tracts or lead to cramping.
  • Ask your nurse or doctor about medicine that can lessen or stop your diarrhea.
  • To help with nausea and vomiting, eat small, frequent meals instead of three large meals a day. Choose foods and drinks that are at room temperature. Ask your nurse or doctor about other helpful tips and medicine that is available to help or stop lessen these symptoms.
  • If you’re diabetic, keep good control of your blood sugar level. Tell your nurse or your doctor if your glucose levels are higher or lower than normal.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are no known interactions of abiraterone with food, however abiraterone should be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist about all other prescription medicines and dietary supplements you are taking before starting this medicine as there are known drug interactions with abiraterone acetate. Also, check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new prescription or over-the-counter medicines, or dietary supplement to make sure that there are no interactions.
  • Avoid the use of St. John’s Wort while taking abiraterone acetate as this may lower the levels of the drug in your body, which can make it less effective.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have any of these symptoms and/or any new or unusual symptoms: 

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • You cough up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • A headache that does not go away
  • Blurry vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) 4 times a day or loose bowel movements with lack of strength or a feeling of being dizzy
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Signs of possible liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Pain or burning when you pass urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Feeling like you have to pass urine often, but not much comes out when you do 
  • Tender or heavy feeling in your lower abdomen
  • Cloudy urine and/or urine that smells bad
  • Pain on one side of your back under your ribs. This is where your kidneys are.
  • Abnormal blood sugar
  • Unusual thirst, passing urine often, headache, sweating, shakiness, irritability
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week (fluid retention) 
  • If you think you may have impregnated your partner

Reproduction Warnings

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug can have harmful effects on the unborn baby. Abiraterone acetate should never be used by women who are pregnant or who could become pregnant while taking the drug. Men with female partners of child bearing potential should use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment and for at least 1 week after your cancer treatment. Let your doctor know right away if you think you may have impregnated your partner.
  • Breastfeeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. Abiraterone acetate should never be used by women.
  • Fertility warning: Human fertility studies have not been done with this drug. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children. Ask for information on sperm banking.

Revised July 2017

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