1 What is Iressa?

Generic: Gefitinib

Iressa is an anti-cancer medication that is used in the treatment of a certain type of lung cancer called metastatic non-small cell lung carcinoma.

It is used in those patients who have a certain type of genes called EGFR genes and that have not received any cancer treatment before. Your doctor will perform a test before you take this medicine.

Gefitinib belongs to the group of drugs called antineoplastic drugs (cancer medicines). It inhibits the growth of cancer cells which are then destroyed eventually.

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

This product is available in the Tablet dosage form.

2 What to Know Before Using

Before using Iressa, you must know all about the risks and complications associated with it.

Every medicine has potential side effects. So, the benefits of a drug should always be weighed against its associated risks. 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.

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.

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.

Gefitinib should be used cautiously along with following drugs:

  • Aluminum Phosphate
  • Aluminum Carbonate, Basic
  • Aluminum Hydroxide
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Cimetidine
  • Carbamazepine
  • Dexlansoprazole
  • Dasabuvir
  • Dihydroxyaluminum Aminoacetate
  • Esomeprazole
  • Dihydroxyaluminum Sodium Carbonate
  • Famotidine
  • Lansoprazole
  • Fosphenytoin
  • Magaldrate
  • Magnesium Oxide
  • Magnesium Carbonate
  • Magnesium Hydroxide
  • Magnesium Trisilicate
  • Omeprazole
  • Nizatidine
  • Pantoprazole
  • Rabeprazole
  • Phenytoin
  • Ranitidine
  • Rifampin
  • St John's Wort
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Vinorelbine
  • Topotecan

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 especially:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lung or breathing problems (eg, interstitial lung disease)
  • Eye or vision problems (eg, conjunctivitis, corneal erosion, keratitis)
  • Liver disease—Use with caution. The effects may be increased because of slower removal from the body.
  • Stomach or bowel problems (eg, gastrointestinal perforation)

3 Proper Usage

To use Iressa properly, you must follow all instructions given by your doctor.

Anti-cancer drugs are very strong medications and have a lot of side effects. Make sure that you understand the benefits and risks of this drug before starting the medicine. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.

This medicine comes with a patient information guide. Read and follow all the instructions carefully. Ask your doctor if you have any questions. This medicine can be taken with or without food.

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.

Do not miss any dose. The dose of this drug varies according to the condition of each person.

The number of doses per day, the time interval between the doses and the length of time you have to take the medicine depends on your condition individually and all these factors should only be determined by your healthcare provider.

Follow each and every instruction of your doctor and also read the label carefully.

If you take a stomach medicine (such as dexlansoprazole, lansoprazole, omeprazole, pantoprazole, Aciphex®, Dexilant®, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec®), take these medicines at least 12 hours before or 12 hours after you take this medicine.

It is best to avoid these medicines unless your doctor tells you otherwise

In case you miss one dose of this drug, take it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your subsequent dose, you can then skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses at once.

Storage: This medicine should be stored at room temperature within a closed container, away from heat, direct light, and moisture. Keep this drug out of the reach of children. Do not store expired or outdated medicines or the medicine no longer needed.

4 Precautions to Take

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

This drug can be harmful to the developing fetus if it’s used in pregnant women. That is why you should use an effective birth control method if you are using this drug.

If you plan to have children, talk with your doctor before using this medicine. Some women using this medicine have become infertile (unable to have children).

Call your doctor right away if you experience shortness of breath, fever, and cough that comes on suddenly. These could be symptoms of a serious lung condition.

Also, tell your doctor if you have dark urine or pale stools, nausea or vomiting, yellow skin or eyes, or upper stomach pain. These could be symptoms of a liver problem.

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 Iressa.

All drugs have a tendency to cause unwanted effects along with its desired effects. 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:

  • clay colored stools
  • abdominal or stomach pain or tenderness
  • decreased appetite
  • dark urine
  • diarrhea, severe
  • headache
  • fever
  • itching or skin rash
  • swelling of the feet or lower legs
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • burning, dry, or itching eyes
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • yellow eyes or skin
  • cough
  • chest pain
  • chills
  • discharge or excessive tearing
  • difficult breathing
  • dry eyes
  • redness, pain, or swelling of the eye, eyelid, or inner lining of the eyelid
  • the general feeling of discomfort or illness
  • thickening of bronchial secretions
  • blistering, peeling or loosening of the skin
  • troubled breathing
  • troubled or quick, shallow breathing
  • heartburn
  • bloody, black, or tarry stools
  • eye redness, irritation, or pain
  • indigestion
  • severe abdominal or stomach pain, cramping or burning
  • joint or muscle pain
  • red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • sore throat
  • vomiting of material that looks like coffee grounds, severe and continuing
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips

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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