Gleevec FAQ

Q:  What is Gleevec?

A:  Gleevec, generic from imatinib mesylate is a prescription drug for treatment of particular kinds of cancer, including Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or CML and Gastroinestinal Stromal Tumors or GIST. Gleevec performs by stopping and preventing the development of cancer cells. Gleevec is produced by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation and was granted approval in 2001 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Q: What is Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or CML?

A:  CML refers to an illness characterized by having too many abnormal white blood cells in the human body, thus, making the individual very sick frequently, feeling weak, and exhausted. Gleevec helps the body prevent making this abnormal growth of white blood cells.

Q:  What is Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor or GIST?

A:  GIST is a cluster of cancer cells that begin to develop in the walls of stomach, intestines, or rectum. Gleevec also helps the body prevent the growth of these abnormal cells.

Q:  Is there any update or news about Gleevec?

A:  The Nature Medicine submitted a report in August 2006 about a study of ten CML patients who were treated with Gleevec have developed congestive heart failure after 1 to 14 months. Other studies also showed that Gleevec could keep CML patients 80% to 90% free from cancer for at least 5 years. Since the general survival rate of most of these CML patients who were treated with Gleevec was very high and because the cancer relapse rate, and the number of reported heart failures are low, many would claim that the benefits of Gleevec outweighed its potential risks.

Q:  Who should not use Gleevec?

A:  Women should not become pregnant while under treatment with Gleevec. Gleevec has the capacity to reduce temporarily the number of white blood cells in your blood and this will increase the risks of getting any infection. It can also reduce the number of platelets, which are needed for appropriate blood clotting. Consult with your healthcare provider about the necessary steps to lower the risks of bleeding and infection.

Q:  What should I tell my healthcare provider before he/she prescribes Gleevec?

A:  You must inform your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have or had any unusual allergic reaction to Gleevec
  • Are allergic to any substances such as foods, dyes, preservatives
  • Are or may be pregnant, or are planning to be pregnant, or are breastfeeding your baby
  • Have anemia or any platelet problems
  • White blood cell problems
  • Have liver problems
  • Have any infections
  • Have chickenpox, including recent exposure to it
  • Have been exposed to herpes zoster or shingles
  • You or anybody whom you might be exposed has recently had or are planning to have any immunization or vaccination

Q:  What are the side effects linked with Gleevec?

A:  The common side effects related with the use of Gleevec  include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluid retention or edema
  • Skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn

While severe side effects are rare and are as follows:

  • Fluid retention or edema
  • High potential for bleeding or hemorrhage, particularly with elderly people
  • Liver problems

Notify your healthcare provider if you experience swelling or gain weight from water retention.

Q:  Is there any interaction between the Gleevec and other drugs or foods?

A:  Gleevec and particular medicines can interact with one another. Inform your healthcare provider about all your medicines, including the prescription and nonprescription medicines.

Q: What should I do if I think I have been injured as a consequence of using Gleevec?

A:  If you or any of your family members have symptoms or unusual medical condition while taking Gleevec, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider.  Then, you may find and consult with an experienced lawyer about your case, discuss thoroughly your options and safeguard your legal right to a remedy for any injury sustained while using Gleevec.

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