1 What is Abraxane?

Brand: Abraxane

Generic: Paclitaxel

Abraxane is used for the treatment of many metastatic cancers (cancer which has spread to other parts of the body).

It belongs to a group of drugs called anti-neoplastics which slow down the growth of cancerous cells which are eventually removed by the body. It may also affect the normal body cells; hence it leads to many side effects uncommon to other drugs.

This protein-bound injection is used to treat metastatic breast cancer which is not responsive to other medications. It can also be used to treat non-small cell lung cancer if used with carboplatin, and for the treatment of pancreatic cancer along with gemcitabine, in those who cannot tolerate radiation therapies.

Certain studies have also revealed its use in recurrent ovarian cancer treatment. It is a strict prescription drug which is given only under the supervision of the consulting doctor. It is available in the form of powder to make suspension.

2 What to Know Before Using

Before beginning Abraxane, the benefits of the treatment should be compared by the negative effects it is going to have on the body. For this purpose, detailed conversation between doctor and patient is necessary to have good understanding of the drug, its effects and how to use it.

This is a drug used in cancer patients who are already perplexed by the fact that they have cancer, thus it is important that the doctor fulfill their every need for information.

  • Detailed history of a patient is extremely important prior to any medical therapy and in this case, it is preferred that a drug be started after it. Allergies or any history of allergy to any drug, food, preservatives, dyes or animal products; history of drug usage, past medical or surgical procedure should also be kept in record to predict any drug interaction.
  • Physical examination should be done before starting this drug so that any physiological or pathological condition with which this drug may interfere may be ruled out.
  • Age specific assessment is necessary to maintain a safety profile. There is lack of enough evidence by studies to rule out specific side effects in children and elderly. However, elderly must be extra cautious with its use as it may lead to more severe side effects. There are many studies which indicate that there are risks to the fetus if this drug is used in pregnancy; hence it should be used only in life threatening situations in such patients. There are not enough studies which indicate risks specific to breastfeeding mothers.
  • Drug interactions may occur with other medications taken along this drug. It is not recommended to inoculate live rotavirus vaccine while being on therapy with this drug. If a patient is also using ethinyl-estradiol, testosterone or tretinoin; the doctor may change one of these drugs or decrease their dosage. The interactions as a result of tobacco, alcohol and certain foods should be discussed with the doctor as well.
  • Other medical conditions can also interfere with the working of this drug or decrease its removal from the body. These conditions should be told by the patient before commencing this drug. These conditions include infection, liver disease, low white blood cells count and sensory neuropathy.

3 Proper Usage

Abraxane is strictly a prescription drug and cannot be acquired without reference of a clinic or a hospital. It is given as an injection into vein by or under the guidance of a specialist doctor.

4 Precautions to Take

Precautions are the tips to enhance the working of any therapy and to reduce its side effects. There are several precautions to be observed while on therapy with Abraxane:

  • Regular visits to the doctor should be made to check its progress.
  • Avoid its use in pregnancy as it will lead to fetal harm.
  • Use effective contraceptive method to avoid pregnancy while being on therapy with this drug.
  • Males should also use proper contraceptive method as those who are on this drug may have defective sperms.
  • Anaphylaxis is an emergency life threatening condition. Patient should refer to the medical help as soon as possible in this case.
  • Avoid direct contact with people having infection as the chances of infection will increase as this drug decreases white blood cells count of the body.
  • Look for any bleeding or oozing as platelets are also decreased by this drug.
  • Human blood derived protein is used as a part of this drug. Consult your doctor if you have any concern about allergies or viral infections.
  • Do not start any other drug, prescription or non-prescription, without consulting your doctor.
  • Consult the doctor if any serious problem is suspected.
  • Storage of drug should be in a dry environment at room temperature.

5 Potential Side Effects

Abraxane, a protein-bound injection, is associated with many side effects like other anti-cancer drugs. It is important for the patient to have detailed information about these problems and refer to his/her doctor, if any effect is observed.

More common side effects are black tarry stools, swelling of different body parts, blurred vision, chest pain, chills, cough, fever, loss of taste, body pain, painful or difficult urination, pale skin, rapid weight gain, sneezing, sore throat, chest tightness, tingling sensation in feet and hands, difficulty breathing, ulcers, sores or white spots in the mouth, unusual bleeding and unusual tiredness.

Less common side effects include anxiety, blood in the urine or stools, burning, tingling, numbness or pain in the body, confusion, difficulty swallowing, dizziness, lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position, irregular heartbeat, general feeling of discomfort, difficulty in moving muscles, inability to speak, chest pain, pinpoint red spots on the skin, rapid and shallow breathing, sensation of pins and needles, sudden headache, itching, stabbing pain, sudden loss of coordination, sweating, thickening of bronchial secretions, dementia and difficulty in walking.

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