Gleevec Overview

Gleevec Defined

Gleevec, from the classification of imatinib mesylate, refers to the prescription medicine for treatment of certain types of cancer, including Chronic Myeloid Leukemia or CML and Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors or GIST. Gleevec performs by preventing the development of cancer cells.

CML is an illness where the body produces too much abnormal white blood cells which make the individual always sick, characterized by feeling weak and exhausted. Gleevec helps the human body prevent producing abnormal white blood cells.

GIST is a cluster of cancer cells that begin to grow in the walls of stomach, intestines, or rectum. Gleevec helps the body to prevent making these abnormal cells.
Gleevec is produced by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and was granted by the US Food and Administration in 2001.

Health Failure Risks and Gleevec

Some recent studies stated that Gleevec can cause heart problems for individuals who are taking the medicine to cure CML. Nature Medicine, in its August 2006 publication, reported a study composing 10 CML patients who were taking Gleevec and developed congestive heart failure after 1 to 14 months.

However, results of some studies claimed that Gleevec kept 80% to 90% of the CML patients free of cancer for at least 5 years. Since the general survival rate of most CML patients treated with Gleevec is higher and the cancer relapse rate and the number of reported heart failures are relatively low, many claimed that the benefits of Gleevec are compensated its risks.

Who Should Not Use Gleevec?

Women should refrain from becoming pregnant while undergoing treatment with Gleevec.
Gleevec can reduce temporarily the quantity of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the risks of acquiring infections. It also reduces the number of platelets, which were needed for proper blood clotting. To lower the risks of bleeding or infection, one can take the safety measures:

  • Check with healthcare provider right away if you observe any unusual bleeding or bruising; contact your healthcare provider right away if you observe any unusual bleeding or bruising; black and tarry stools; blood is present in urine or stools; or some red marks in the skin
  • Avoid patients with infections; inform your healthcare provider right away if you have fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination
  • Refrain from touching your eyes or the interior of your nose unless you have washed your hands thoroughly and have not touched anything
  • Avoid cutting yourself when using sharp objects such as safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters
  • Be careful with the use of toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Discuss with your healthcare provider about other ways of cleaning your teeth and gums and before having any dental work to be done.
  • Refrain from playing sports events or other situations that will produce bruises or injury

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

Inform your healthcare provider if you:

  • Are pregnant, may become pregnant, or breastfeeding your baby; while there was no study conducted yet with pregnant women, animal studies revealed that Gleevec cause birth defects and other problems with pregnancy; it is not known whether Gleevec passes into human breast milk. Gleevec, therefore, is not recommended during breast feeding since it may cause unwanted birth defects.
  • If you have or any previous allergic reaction to Gleevec or imatinib, or if you are allergic to any substances such as foods, dyes, or preservatives.
  • Have chickenpox, including latest exposure to chickenpox or herpes zoster, also known as shingles Gleevec; Gleevec reduces one’s body’s resistance and he/she may get the infection the immunization which is meant to prevent; any member of your family should not take oral polio vaccine while using Gleevec; avoid people who had taken oral polio vaccine. Any contact with patients taking this vaccine may increase the risks of contacting polio virus.
  • Are planning to have any immunization or vaccination after you discontinue using Gleevec
  • Have liver problems
  • Have any infection
  • Have platelet problems, including anemia or white blood cell problems

Side Effects of Gleevec

Some common side effects related with taking Gleevec are as follows:

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

Severe side effects associated with using Gleevec are:

  • Liver problems
  • Potential risks for leeding or hemorrhage, particularly with the elderly
  • Severe fluid retention or edema

Notify your healthcare provider if you are experiencing swelling or weight gain due to water retention.

Is There Any Interaction With Other Foods or Drugs?

Gleevec and some medicines can interact with one another. Inform your healthcare provider regarding all the medicines you have and are taking, including the prescription and nonprescription medications. Also inform your healthcare provider if you have taken any of the following medications that may increase the amount of Gleevec in your blood:

  • Itraconazole
  • Erythromycin
  • Ketoconazole
  • Clarithromycin

Inform your healthcare provider if you have taken any of the following medicines that may reduce the amount of Gleevec in your blood:

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

Grapefruit and grapefruit juice, or any grapefruit-containing food or vitamins may increase the amount of Gleevec in your body, hence, increase also the chances of side effects.

Obtaining Legal Help

Since all of the medication have their particular side effects, it is the obligation of the drug manufacturer to make their products safe and to inform the medical community and the general public regarding the probable risks associated with the drugs produced. If the manufacturer fails to do this, they can be held legally liable if the patients are injured as a consequence of insufficient warnings or the dangerous nature of the medicine, under the legal theory known as “product liability.”

If you or any of the member of your family have suffered from any of the symptoms or uncommon medical conditions while taking Gleeve, you should notify your healthcare provider or doctor. Then, you may search for an experienced lawyer who will be able to explain and discuss with you the legal options and safeguard your legal rights to a remedy for any injury caused by taking Gleevec.

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