A type of chemotherapy, Alimta is a drug used for the treatment of mesothelioma and non-squamous, non-small-cell lung cancer. It is given as an injection, typically every 21 days. Although this drug is more likely to kill cancer cells than healthy cells, some healthy cells will still be affected. Therefore, side effects can be significant; common ones include fatigue, loss of appetite, and nausea.
What Is Alimta?Alimta® (pemetrexed) is a prescription chemotherapy medication approved for treating non-squamous, non-small-cell lung cancer and mesothelioma.
How Does Alimta Work?Alimta belongs to a group of medications known as folate antimetabolites, folate antagonists, or antifolates. It works by preventing the conversion of folic acid into its active form. Cells need that active form of folic acid to make DNA and RNA -- important molecules essential for cell division.
Alimta is somewhat selective for cancer cells, meaning that it is more likely to affect cancer cells instead of healthy cells. However, as with most forms of chemotherapy, some healthy cells will be affected, and this process is likely responsible for many of the side effects of chemotherapy.
When and How to Take This MedicineSome general considerations to keep in mind when taking Alimta include the following:
- Alimta comes as an injection. It is injected slowly (infused) into a vein. Each infusion takes about 10 minutes. In most cases, you will receive one infusion every 21 days.
- You must take folic acid (as recommended by your healthcare provider) for at least 5 out of the 7 days before your Alimta infusion and continue until at least 21 days after your last dose.
- You must also receive an intramuscular vitamin B12 injection while taking this medication. You should get your first vitamin B12 injection during the week before your first Alimta infusion and then once after every three doses of Alimta (usually about once every nine weeks for most people).
- Your healthcare provider may choose to give you a corticosteroid medication (such as dexamethasone) to help prevent skin rashes due to Alimta. In most cases, the steroid is taken the day before, the day of, and the day after the infusion.