1 What is Gemzar?

Brand: Gemzar

Generic: Gemcitabine (Intravenous Route)

Gemzar belongs to the group of drugs called antimetabolites. It is used either alone or in combination with other drugs for the treatment of different types of cancer like breast, ovary, pancreas, and lung. 

Gemcitabine inhibits the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. It can also affect the growth of normal cells like hair, GIT epithelium, and bone marrow.

Some of these effects can be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Other effects, like hair loss, may not be serious but may cause concern.

Some effects may occur after treatment with gemcitabine has been stopped.

This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.

Once a medicine has been approved for marketing for a certain use, experience may show that it is also useful for other medical problems.

Although this use is not included in product labeling, gemcitabine is used in certain patients with the following medical conditions:

This product is available in the following dosage forms:

  • Solution
  • Powder for Solution

2 What to Know Before Using

Before using Gemzar, you must know all about the risks and complications associated with it. Your doctor will consider these risks before prescribing the drug and will inform you about them.

Following factors should be considered before taking this drug:

  • Allergies: If you have had an allergic reaction to this drug in the past, inform your doctor. You should also tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to any other drugs or food products.
  • Age-specific problems: The data regarding the effects of this medicine specific to the pediatric age group is not yet available. Its safety and efficacy have not been established in children because the only limited amount of studies have been performed. The studies specific to the geriatric age group have not been carried out, that would limit the use of this drug in old age group.
  • Pregnancy: Regarding the safety of usage of this drug during pregnancy, it comes under “B” category, which means that clinical trials on animals have revealed harmful effects to the developing fetus.
  • Drug Interactions: Certain drugs should not be used together because they can interact inside the body which can have a harmful effect. On the other hand, certain drugs are allowed to be used together.

So, you should tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking. If there is a chance of interaction between those two drugs, the doctor may change the dose or may prescribe an alternative drug. Gemcitabine especially interacts with different vaccines.

So, it should be used cautiously with following vaccinations:

Furthermore, certain medications should not be taken with alcohol or tobacco, which may also result in harmful interactions. Ask your doctor about the concurrent use of this drug along with alcohol or tobacco.

You should also inform your doctor about any other medical condition you may be suffering from: 

  • Herpes zoster (shingles)—Risk of severe disease spreading to other parts of the body
  • Chickenpox (including recent exposure)
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease, severe—These conditions sometimes increase the effects of medicines by causing them to be removed from the body more slowly .
  • Infection—Gemcitabine can decrease your body's ability to fight infection

3 Proper Usage

To use Gemzar correctly, you must follow all instructions given by your doctor. Your doctor will prescribe your exact dose and tell you how often it should be given. This medicine is given through intravenous route through a needle placed into one of your veins.

Gemcitabine often causes nausea and vomiting. It can also cause flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, general feeling of illness, muscle pain, headache, and weakness. It is very important that you continue to receive the medicine even if it makes you feel ill.

To avoid adverse effects, this drug should be used exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Do not overuse or misuse this drug and do not use it longer than the recommended time. Read all the instructions mentioned in the medication guide.

4 Precautions to Take

Before using Gemzar, there are some precautions you must take. 

If you are on Gemzar, you should not receive any immunization even after you have stopped using the drug.

This drug lowers your body resistance to foreign organisms. Vaccines are attenuated form of bacteria and viruses, so it may prove harmful for patients on this drug.

Regular follow-up is necessary during and after the treatment. It is important to allow your doctor to monitor your progress and to make sure that there aren’t any side effects from the medication.

Contact your doctor if your symptoms have not improved even after taking the full course of treatment. The doctor may order some blood tests in order to determine the blood levels of the drug.

Avoid taking any other medicine unless thoroughly discussed with your doctor. Always ask your doctor before using any prescription, non-prescription or herbal medicine.

5 Potential Side Effects

As with many medications, there are several potential side effects associated with Gemzar. Although these side effects may occur only in a handful of patients but if they do occur, contact your physician immediately.

This medication is associated with following side effects:

  • blood in urine or stools
  • bleeding gums
  • chest pain
  • burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings
  • cloudy urine
  • a cough or hoarseness
  • coughing up blood
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty in moving
  • difficult or labored breathing
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • dizziness
  • the general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • fever or chills
  • headache
  • joint pain
  • increased menstrual flow or vaginal bleeding
  • lack or loss of strength
  • lower back or side pain
  • loss of appetite
  • muscle pains or stiffness
  • muscle aching or cramping
  • nausea
  • painful or difficult urination
  • nosebleeds
  • pale skin
  • red or black, tarry stools
  • paralysis
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots on lips or in the mouth
  • prolonged bleeding from cuts
  • red or dark brown urine
  • runny nose
  • shivering
  • shortness of breath
  • sore throat
  • sweating
  • swollen joints
  • swelling of hands, ankles, feet, or lower legs
  • swollen glands
  • tightness in the chest
  • trouble sleeping
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • troubled breathing with exertion
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • vomiting
  • wheezing
  • weight loss

Seek medical help instantly, if you experience any of these symptoms while on this medication. Also, contact your healthcare professional immediately, if have overdosed on this drug.

If any of these side effects becomes more bothersome or does not go away, contact your doctor.

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