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Femara (Letrozole)  

 

Warning:  Femaramay cause fetal harm to pregnant women. Novartis -The manufacturer of the drug- has noticed doctors that there are reported cases of birth defects that observed in the children of women who received the medication while pregnant.

 

Indication: A nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor drug, Femara is also commonly referred to as Letrozole.  This is a drug that slows cancer tumor and cell growth by reducing the amount of estrogen that the body produces—something that cancer cells need in order to grow.  It is usually administered to women who can no longer become pregnant, through age, and have shown cancer spreading in other areas of their body.  Women in the early stage of breast cancer are also given this drug after they have undergone radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy.

Femara can also be prescribed for other medical conditions not mentioned in this article; talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

As with most cancer drugs, there are quite a few side effects that come with taking Femara and the most common are stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal bleeding, headaches, urination problems, sleep issues, body aches and pains, and even flu-like symptoms.  While serious side effects are uncommon, you should contact your doctor immediately if you have issues with breathing, chest pain, mood swings, tingling or numbness in your feet and hands, vision problems, coughing up blood, or numbness on the left side of the body.  Although rare, there have been patients who suffered a heart attack or stroke while on this drug, due to blood clots forming. 

 

Dosage: Femara is a tablet and usually taken once a day with or without food.  This may alter slightly depending on your doctor’s recommendation and your overall health status.  Before taking this drug, you should take time and read everything your doctor and pharmacist gives you in order to monitor the effects of the drug on your body.  If you forget to take your pill, you can take it as soon as possible, unless it is the next day.  If this is the case, it is better to skip the dose and take the next one at the appropriate time.  Do not stop taking this drug without approval from your doctor and do not take more than once a day.

Storage: store femara at room temperature (15-25 ° C), away from heat above 40 ° C, light and moisture. Keep the medication out of the reach of children. Femara and all other medications should not be used beyond the expiration date printed on the container.  

Overdose: as with any drug, Femara overdose may be dangerous, mainly if taken for long term. An overdose of Femara can damage the bone marrow, and lead to a life threatening decrease in white blood cells and/or in platelets. If you take an overdose, contact your doctor or the poison control center nearest you to reduce or prevent complications.  

Missing dose: always take Femara as prescribed. In case you forget to take a dose, take the missed one as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, do not double the next dose to recover the missing, it can be dangerous. Contact your doctor or wait to go back to your regular schedule. This applies not only to Femara but also any other drug. 

Contraindication: Femara is contraindicated in the following conditions : 

  • allergy to Femara or any of its ingredients 
  • pre menopause women  
  • pregnant women or women who may become pregnant  
  • Women who are breastfeeding. 

Mechanism of action (MOA): Femara is classed as an aromatase inhibitor, a group of chemotherapy drugs commonly used in the treatment of cancer. It reduces the production of estrogens by blocking aromatase, an enzyme involved in their biosynthesis. The cells of breast cancer are hormone-dependent; they need estrogens to multiply. The reduction of estrogen production can thus limit the proliferation of cancer cells and prevents the tumor from growing or developing.  

Interactions:  You should always make sure that your doctor has a list of any and all medications you are taking.  This list should include over-the-counter medications such as cough syrup or aspirins, herbs, and any herbal treatments as these could increase the severity of the drug’s side effects and even counteract the drug’s purpose.  Drugs with estrogen in them may also interfere with the drug’s usefulness so you should make sure your doctor knows you are taking them.

 

Talk to your doctor before taking vitamin supplements or any herbal remedy. Certain medications such as hormone replacement therapy and hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills, patches, rings, and injections), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and raloxifene (Evista) can affect the therapeutic property of Femara, or increase the risk of developing side effects; contact your doctor before using them. 

Side effects: Femara cause adverse effects in most patients; common Femara side effects include:  

  • nausea and vomiting
  • anxiety
  • loss of hair
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • muscle pain
  • rash or itching
  • pain or upset stomach
  • unusual tiredness
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • skin redness, warmth in the face and neck
  • Sweating (hot flushes).

If the side effects above persist for weeks, contact your oncologist. In addition, contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:  

reference: 

1 - santecheznous.com, Quels sont les effets secondaires possibles de ce médicament ? 

2 - nlm.nih.gov, Side effects : Letrexole