What is Gleevec?

Gleevec is the product name for imatinib mesylate, a prescription drug used for the treatment of certain cancers such as Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST) and Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) by preventing further growth of cancer cells.

GIST  is a group of tumors that of the connective tissues which can grow in the stomach, intestines, or esophagus. CML is a kind of cancer in which the body produces abnormal while blood cells, making the patient weak and prone to diseases. Gleevec may be used to treat these cancers by helping prevent the growth of the cancer cells.

Gleevec is manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001.

Gleevec and the Risk of Heart Failure

Studies have shown that Gleevec could potentially cause heart problems to CML patients who are taking the medicine. A study by Nature Medicine (2006) reported that there were ten CML patients who have developed congestive heart failure within one to fourteen months of taking Gleevec.

In contrast, there have been studies that showed Gleevec is responsible for keeping 80-90% of CML patients cancer-free for about five years. Since the success rate and benefits of the drug–such as high survival rate and low relapse rate–outweigh its risks, most of CML patients are treated with Gleevec.

Who Should Not Use Gleevec?

Gleevec should not be used by pregnant women. White blood cells may be temporarily reduced due to the intake of the drug, making a person vulnerable to diseases and infections. It may also hinder the production of platelets, making the patient susceptible to bleeding.

A person who takes Gleevec should:

Avoid being exposed to people with infections. Go to your doctor as soon as you experience chills or you have a fever; lower back or side pain; cough or hoarseness; or difficult or painful urination.

See your doctor as soon as you notice any bruising or unusual bleeding; blood in stool or urine; tarry black stool; or tiny red spots on your skin.

Take care when using even ordinary things such as toothbrush, toothpick or floss. Consult your doctor before any dental procedure.

Avoid contact with mucous membranes. Make sure that your hands are clean and sterilized when touching body parts such as eyes and inside of the nose.

Take care not to cut yourself when handling sharp or pointy objects.

Avoid any physical activity that may potentially cause any injury or bruising.

What are the things that I should tell my doctor?

Let your healthcare professional know if:

  • You have had any allergic or unusual reaction to Gleevec, or any other substances such as food, dyes, chemicals or preservatives.
  • You have white blood cell problems like abnormal platelet count or anemia.
  • You are breastfeeding, pregnant or may likely become pregnant. Studies on animals have shown that Gleevec may cause birth defects and pregnancy complications. It is advisable to avoid breastfeeding while taking Gleevec to prevent any harm the drug may cause the baby.
  • You have herpes zoster, chickenpox or have been exposed to chickenpox.
  • You have any kind of infection
  • You have liver disease
  • You plan to have any vaccination or immunization once you stop taking Gleevec. Make sure that none in your household take polio vaccine and avoid those who have just had their vaccine while you are on Gleevec treatment, as Gleevec lowers your resistance and may cause you to contract the virus.

Side Effects of Gleevec

Gleevec’s most common side effects include:

  • Fluid retention
  • Skin rash
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Gleevec’s serious side effects are uncommon. They are:

  • Liver problems
  • Severe fluid retention (edema)
  • Potential for bleeding (hemorrhage), especially in the elderly

Can there be interactions between Gleevec and other drugs or food?

Ask your healthcare professional or doctor if there is any food or drugs you should avoid while on Gleevec treatment.

Let your doctor know if you are taking medication that may react with the Gleevec by increasing its amount in your system such as:

  • Itraconazole
  • Ketoconazole
  • Clarithromycin
  • Erythromycin

Let your doctor know if you are taking medication that may react with the Gleevec by decreasing its amount in your system such as:

  • Phenytoin
  • Dexamethasone
  • Carbamazepine
  • Phenobarbital
  • Rifampicin
  • St. John’s Wort

It is possible for grapefruit, as well as any food or drink containing grapefruit may increase Gleevec in your system, magnifying the chances of experiencing Gleevec’s side effects.

Gleevec – Find Legal Help

It is the duty of the drug manufacturers to ensure the safety of their products, and to let the public and the medical community know of any possible risks associated with taking the medicine. Should they fail to send proper warning, they could be facing product liability for any injury caused to a patient who has taken the drug without being adequately warned of the risks of the medication.

Contact your doctor or healthcare professional as soon as you or a loved one experience the dangerous side effects of Gleevec. You may also want to consider consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer to talk about possible options and course of action you can take against the manufacturer or whoever is liable for injury to you or your loved ones resulting from the use of Gleevec.

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