Imatinib Mesylate (Generic Name)

Gleevec ®(Other Name)

About This Drug

Imatinib mesylate is used to treat cancer. It is given orally (by mouth).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It may increase your risk for infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling of ankles and feet
  • Weight gain
  • Some people have diarrhea and others have constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Passing rectal gas; abdominal bloating
  • Muscle aches and /or cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Rash with or without itching
  • Hair loss
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritation of your nose and throat
  • Fever, may have chills
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Taste changes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eye irritation, dry eyes, and eyelid swelling
  • Changes in your liver function.  Your doctor will monitor your liver function as needed. 
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Or the discomfort may go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes discomfort is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common) 

  • Flushing
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly
  • Skin that is dry or red
  • Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). Photosensitivity means that you may become more sensitive to the effects of the sun, sun lamps, and tanning beds. Your eyes may water more, especially in bright light.
  • Blurred vision, irritated eyes, dry eyes 
  • Bleeding in the brain. Symptoms such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, severe headache with no known cause.  If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911. 

Reproductive Concerns

  • 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.
  • 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: Women are advised not to breast feed during treatment because this drug could enter the breast milk and seriously harm the breastfeeding infant.

Treating Side Effects

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help you prevent or lessen nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, gas and bloating, pain, trouble sleeping, cough, nose and throat irritation, depression, anxiety, dry eyes, eye irritation, and headache.
  • If you are constipated, check with your doctor or nurse before you use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories. 
  • 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.
  • Do not put anything on your rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Wear sunglasses and 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.

Special Instructions

Take this drug with food and a large glass of water to avoid upset stomach. There are no known interactions of imatinib mesylate with food. Do not take acetaminophen (Tylenol) while taking this drug. This drug may interact with other medication.

Food and Drug Interactions

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor’s advice.

When to Call the Doctor

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

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Diarrhea 4 times in a day or diarrhea with weakness
  • Vomiting 4 times in a day
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Or the discomfort may go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes discomfort is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Symptoms of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, severe headache with no known cause.  If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911. 

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

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, gas and bloating, pain, trouble sleeping, cough, nose and throat irritation, depression, anxiety, dry eyes, eye irritation, rash, itching, and headache that does not get better with prescribed medicine
  • No bowel movement in 3 days or when you feel uncomfortable.
  • Weight gain of 5 or more pounds in one week
  • Swelling in your ankles or feet
  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Yellowing of your skin or eyes
  • Night sweats

Revised February 2013

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