Idarubicin (Generic Name)

Other Names: Idamycin

Idarubicin is a drug used to treat cancer. It is given intravenously (IV).

Possible side effects (More Common)

  • Diarrhea or stomach cramps
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow depression usually occurs seven to 14 days after the drug is given and may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may occur within hours after you receive the drug and may last several hours.
  • Headache
  • GI bleed
  • Discoloration of urine or other body fluids
  • Darkening of the skin or fingernails
  • Hair loss. Most patients experience scalp and body hair loss. You may notice hair thinning several days after receiving this drug. Usually hair loss is temporary. Your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.
  • Effects on the heart. This drug may cause an irregular heartbeat or fluid accumulation. Your heart function will be checked as needed.
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or painful sores.

Possible side effects (Less Common)

  • Skin and tissue irritation. You may have redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This irritation occurs if the drug leaks out of the vein and into surrounding tissue.
  • Seizures
  • Increased total bilirubin in your blood.  This may mean that you have changes in your liver function. Your blood work will be monitored by your doctor.

Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns

  • In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations. In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are receiving this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period. Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.
    • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
    • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
    • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred. 
    • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.
    • Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.

Treating side effects

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication to help prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting.
  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated.  
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gently brushing your teeth with a very soft toothbrush and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after every meal and at bedtime.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when you are outdoors even for a short time. Cover up when you are out in the sun. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Keep your neck, chest, and back covered.
  • Speak with your nurse about obtaining a wig before you lose your hair.  Also, call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 to find out information about the “Look Good...Feel Better” program close to where you live. It is a free program where women undergoing chemotherapy learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.

Food and drug interactions

There are no known interactions of idarubicin with any food. This drug may interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist all the medications that you are currently taking.

Important Instructions

During the IV infusion, if you experience pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV infusion, please tell your nurse immediately. If this medication leaks into your tissue it could cause serious damage, and the infusion needs to be stopped immediately if this happened.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than three times in one day
  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site while you are receiving this drug
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Difficulty breathing while lying flat
  • Diarrhea of four stools a day or diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Blood in urine or stool

 

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Painful mouth or throat that makes it difficult to eat or drink

Revised November 2011

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com