1 What is Yervoy?

Brand: Yervoy

Generic: Ipilimumab

Yervoy is a monoclonal antibody approved to treat certain cases of skin cancer (melanoma), specifically those that have active metastases and untreatable with surgery.

Yervoy is a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are clones of a single immune cell processed in the laboratory to target a specific substance or cell. In the case of Ipilimumab, the target is CTLA-4.

CTLA-4 is a receptor that downregulates immune system activity. By targeting and blocking CTLA-4, Ipilimumab allows the immune system to work and destroy cancer cells.

Yervoy is approved to treat late-stage (stage-III) melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is also approved to reduce the risk of melanoma from returning after surgical treatment.

Yervoy is a prescription medication. Ipilimumab packaging carries special warnings. Yervoy can cause serious and life-threatening immune system side effects like enterocolitis, hepatitis, dermatitis, toxic epidermal necrolysis, neuropathy, and endocrinopathy.

These side effects can occur shortly or several months after taking Ipilimumab. Only use Ipilimumab with doctor’s supervision.

2 What to Know Before Using

Your doctor will inform you of what you need to know before using Yervoy. Do not take Yervoy if you are allergic to it.

Make sure to tell all your allergies to the doctor including medications, food, and other substances. Make sure to tell all your health problems before taking Yervoy.

Tell the doctor if you have or have history of the following conditions before having treatment with Yervoy:

Ipilimumab can cause serious and fatal side effects at any time during treatment. Ipilimumab can cause problems in the nerves, which can result in one-sided or total paralysis, changes in sensory perception and persistent tingling sensation (‘pins and needles’ caused by damaged nerves).

Ipilimumab can also cause problems in the endocrine system, resulting in inflammation of the pituitary gland, adrenal insufficiency, and serious thyroid disorders.

Ipilimumab can also cause serious eye problems. Make sure you are familiar with these side effects before taking Ipilimumab. You can discuss these concerns with your doctor before treatment.

You need to be familiar with signs and symptoms of serious side effects of Ipilimumab.

If you are taking Yervoy, call the doctor immediately if you experienced the following:

  • Diarrhea or noticeable increase in bowel movements
  • Passing out black or grossly bloody stools
  • Pain or tenderness in the stomach
  • Passing out dark urine
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Easy bruising and bleeding tendencies
  • Unusual headaches
  • Feeling cold or tired
  • Weight gain
  • Spells of dizziness
  • Mood changes, irritability and confusion
  • Presence of sores in the mouth or skin
  • Skin rash with or without itching
  • Skin sores that may bleed
  • Eye pain or vision changes

Tell the doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding before taking Ipilimumab. Ipilimumab can potentially harm the unborn baby when taken by pregnant patients.

You cannot breastfeed if you are receiving Ipilimumab. The safety of Ipilimumab to children is not yet established. Ipilimumab can be given safely to elderly.

Mention all the medicines you take before taking Ipilimumab. Certain medicines can increase the risk of side effects of Ipilimumab. Anticoagulants like Warfarin and Heparin may increase bleeding side effects of Ipilimumab.

3 Proper Usage

Proper usage of Yervoy requires strict adherence to your doctor’s orders. Yervoy is given by injecting into the veins.

To ensure complete monitoring and prompt action if side effects do occur, you can only have Yervoy in a hospital or doctor’s clinic. The dose is determined by your condition and body weight.

For treatment of late-stage melanoma, Ipilimumab is given every 3 weeks for a maximum of four doses. If side effects occur, Yervoy infusion may be delayed, but all doses must be given within 16 weeks of the first dose.

As an adjuvant for surgical treatment of melanoma, Ipilimumab is given every 3 weeks for the first four doses, and next doses are then given every 12 weeks for up to 3 years. If side effects occur, Yervoy infusion is omitted, not delayed.

Yervoy must be infused very slowly into the vein, and infusion must last at least 90 minutes or more. The doctor may give you additional medications to reduce the risk of side effects.

You will be closely monitored during and after infusion of Ipilimumab to check for side effects.

If you cannot make it to the appointment where you will receive Yervoy infusion, call the doctor right away. Since health professionals will give you Yervoy, overdosing is unlikely.

4 Precautions to Take

Before using Yervoy, there are some precautions you must take. It is very important that you maintain open communication with the doctor. Be aware of early signs and symptoms of Yervoy and report it to the doctor.

5 Potential Side Effects

Make sure you meet with your doctor in using Yervoy to avoid unwanted potential side effects.

Call the doctor right away if you experience the following:

  • Severe allergic reaction symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest tightness, swelling of the lips, mouth, face or tongue
  • Symptoms of liver problem such as pain in the upper stomach, passing out dark-colored urine, jaundice, and easy bruising
  • Symptoms of nerve problems such as unusual muscle weakness, numbness or tingling sensation (‘pins and needles’) in the arms or legs
  • A headache, feeling too cold or too tired, weight gain, spells of lightheadedness or dizziness, mood swings, irritability, and confusion
  • Symptoms of serious skin reaction such as mouth sores, skin rash or sores, blistering and peeling of the skin
  • Eye pain and vision changes

Yervoy may also cause the following serious side effects:

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Trouble in doing everyday activities
  • Passing too little or no urine
  • Severe upper stomach pain that spreads to the back, with nausea and vomiting and rapid heart rate
  • Fever, a cough and trouble breathing
  • Chest pain, shortness of the breath even with mild exertion, swelling and rapid weight gain

Yervoy may cause the following less serious side effects, which are not harmful: