Nilotinib (Generic Name)

Other Names: Tasigna®

About This Drug

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

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Rash or skin irritation
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and feet
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Some people have diarrhea and some have constipation
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Feeling tired
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever

Possible Side Effects (Less Common

  • Hair loss. Usually hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.
  • Effects on the nerves, called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. It may be difficult for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk normally. The effect on the nerves may get worse with additional doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped, but it may not get better in some people.
  • Changes in how your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked as needed.
  • Changes in the tissue of the heart. Some changes may occur that can cause your heart to have less ability to pump blood. Your heart function will be checked as needed.
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Electrolyte changes. Your blood will be checked for electrolyte changes as needed.
  • Changes in how your liver works. Your liver function will be checked as needed.
  • Changes in your vision.
  • Trouble breathing because of fluid build-up in your lungs.
  • Trouble sleeping

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 breast-feeding infant.

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6 to 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.
  • If you are constipated, check with your doctor or nurse before you use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories.
  • Do not put anything on your rash, unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for medicine to prevent or lessen your nausea, diarrhea, muscle or joint pain, muscle spasms, headache, or trouble sleeping.
  • Be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.
  • If you are dizzy, rise slowly and gradually after sitting or lying down. Be careful climbing stairs.
  • 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.

Important Information

  • Take on empty stomach (one hour before or two hours after meals) with a glass of water.
  • Swallow whole. Do not chew, break, or crush.
  • Capsule may be opened and contents sprinkled on 1 teaspoon of applesauce. Swallow right away.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are known interactions of nilotinib with food and with some other medications and products, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. Ask your doctor what over-the-counter medication you can take for fever, headache, and muscle and joint pain. Do not eat grapefruit or grapefruit juice.

Talk with your doctor if you use St. John’s Wort, garlic, ginseng, and/or ginkgo. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications 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:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black or tarry stools
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath.
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking.
  • Vomiting more than 3 times a day.
  • Diarrhea 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness.
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness that prevents your from standing and walking safely.
  • Visual changes

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

  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet.
  • Extreme tiredness that interferes with normal activities.
  • Muscle or joint pain or spasms unrelieved by prescribed medication.
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, or feet.
  • No bowel movement for three days or you feel uncomfortable.

New — January 2013

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