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Alimta (Pemetrexed)

 

Warning:  Pemetrexed, under the brand name Alimta, may rarely cause serious allergic reactions that include shortness of breath, swelling of the throat or hives.  Some temporary hair loss may occur.  People with kidney or liver problems should thoroughly consult their doctor about problems that may occur.  Severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are possible side effects.  Extreme fatigue, excessive bruising and bleeding are also rare side effects.  It may also rarely cause a tingling or numbness in your feed and or hands.  There are also some indications that it can adversely affect a person's fertility.

 

Indications: Alimta is used in cancer chemotherapy to treat certain cancers like mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer.  It causes the cancer cells' growth to slow down or even stop because it makes it hard for those cells to reproduce.  As an antitumor treatment it is effective although it is more effective with certain kinds of cancers.  It can be used in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs to treat different cancers.

Dosage: This chemotherapy drug is administered through an injection into a vein.  The drug is injected by a medical professional and it takes ten minutes or so for the complete injection.  Most patients are on a dosage of one treatment in three weeks.  However, depending on the patient's body size and response to therapy, that dosage may be changed by a medical professional.  Patients undergoing Alimta treatments should be consuming high doses of folic acid and should receive vitamin B12 shots both prior to and during the course of treatment. 

There are a number of side effects that patients can expect with this medication.  Temporary loss of hair is common, as is a loss of appetite.  Both constipation and diarrhea are possible side effects, as are headaches and fatigue.  Skin reactions can occur and a corticosteroid may be prescribed for that, and medication may be warranted for severe vomiting and nausea.  The ability of the body to fight infection is also inhibited to some extent.  As with any serious treatment for cancer, it is best to discuss the benefits as well as the side effects with your doctor before receiving treatment. 

Contraindications: Pregnant women should not use this medication and people who want to have children should discuss the ramifications on fertility with their physicians. ALIMTA is contraindicated in the following conditions: 

  • children or adolescent below 18 years  
  • in association with vaccine against yellow fever  
  • allergy to mannitol, alimta or any of its ingredients  
  • kidney or liver disease.  

Interactions : Some drug interactions with this medication include NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen or aspirin and a number of other medications.  Always make a list of each medicinal product that you take and ask your doctor whether or not it will interfere with the Alimta or cause the side effects to be worse.

If you are taking Alimta, talk to your doctor before taking any prescription or nonprescription medications: Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Naprosyn, and others. Other than folic acid and vitamin 12, you should not take vitamins, nutritional supplements or/and herbal products without the recommendation of your doctor.  

Side effects: to prevent the development or severity of skin reactions, you can be recommended to use a corticosteroid the day before, the same day and the day after taking Alimta. 4 mg of dexamethasone (Decadron) is often recommended to take by mouth twice a day. In addition, you may be prescribed folic acid or a multivitamins containing folic acid. At least five doses of folic acid must be taken within 7 days before the first dose of Alimta. Patients should continue taking the vitamin supplement during the duration of the treatment and for 21 days thereafter.  

Certain oncologist usually administers to their patients an injection of vitamin B12 in the week preceding the first dose of Alimta and once every three cycles. Subsequent injections of vitamin B12 can take place the same day as the therapy.  

Alimta might damage the bone marrow, leading to deficiency of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. This results in occurrence of adverse effects. Most common Alimta side effects include: diarrhea, Vomiting, confusion, insomnia, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, loss of taste (dysgeusia), weight loss, fatigue, pale skin or/and skin rashes, hair loss, headache,  rapid heart beat , changes in mood, clinical depression , joint or muscle pain, Bowel problems (diarrhea or constipation).

See your physician immediately if you experience any of the following:  

  • dizziness or faintness  
  • chest pain and/or cough  
  • unreasonable bleeding or bruising  
  • difficulty breathing and/or swallowing  
  • difficult or altered speech (dysphonia)  
  • weakness or numbness of an arm or leg  
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet.