Vemurafenib (Generic Name)

Other Names: Zelboraf®

About This Drug

Vemurafenib is a drug used to treat patients with metastatic melanoma. This drug is given by mouth.

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Rash
  • Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). Photosensitivity means that you may be more sensitive to the light from the sun, sun lamps, and tanning beds. Your eyes may water more, mostly in bright light.
  • This drug may raise your risk of getting a second skin cancer
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, throwing up, and loose bowel movements. Medicines are available to lessen these side effects.
  • Hair loss. Most often hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is done.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Your heart tissue can be harmed. This may cause your heart to beat in a way that is not normal. Your doctor may order an EKG to check this.
  • Fever. Medicines are available to lessen this side effect.
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Cough
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Changes in your liver function.  Your doctor will check your liver function as needed. 
  • Allergic reactions to this drug happen in some patients.  Signs of allergic reactions to this drug may be a rash, fever, chills, feeling dizzy, trouble breathing, and/or feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way (palpitations)

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6 to 8 cups of fluids each day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. 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).
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of regular, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after every meal and at bedtime.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • If you get a rash do not put anything on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
  • Speak with your nurse about getting 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 for women undergoing chemotherapy to learn about wigs, turbans, and scarves, as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.
  • Wear dark 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.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of Vemurafenib with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might 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 help.

Important Information

  • Keep this medicine in the original container and store at room temperature.
  • You may take vemurafenib with or without food.
  • Swallow this medicine whole. Do not crush, break or chew the tablets.
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is within 4 hours of your next scheduled dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the normal time. Do not take more than one dose to make up for missed doses.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: Wheezing or trouble breathing, rash or itching, swelling of your face, lips or tongue, and/or feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations). 
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 3 times a day or diarrhea with dizziness or weakness
  • Blisters or peeling of the skin
  • Redness or swelling of your face, hands, or soles (bottoms) of the feet

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if any of these symptoms happen:

  • Yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Urine turns dark or brown (looks like tea)
  • Complete loss of appetite
  • New skin growth or other abnormal area on your skin

Reproduction Concerns

  • Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may happen. In both men and women, this drug may affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your treatment. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children. Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
  • Women may experience signs of menopause such as vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.
  • 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 for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

Revised September 2014

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