You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking gemcitabine if you have:
- A history of low levels of white blood cells in the blood (known medically as neutropenia)
- Any infection
- Kidney disease, including kidney failure (renal failure)
- Liver disease, including liver failure or cirrhosis
- Any allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant (see Gemzar and Pregnancy)
- Breastfeeding (see Gemzar and Breastfeeding).
You should also make sure to tell your healthcare provider about all of the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
(Click Precautions and Warnings With Gemcitabine to learn more, including information on who should not take the drug.)
Gemcitabine is part of a group of medications called antimetabolites. Antimetabolites are medications that are similar to naturally occurring chemicals in the body that cells use to build DNA and other important parts of the cell. Antimetabolites are similar enough to these chemicals that cells mistake them for the real chemicals, using them to build DNA. However, antimetabolites are different enough that the DNA (or other cell structures) built using them will not function properly. Since DNA is essential for cells to grow and multiply, antimetabolite medications prevent cell growth and multiplication and may cause cell death.
While gemcitabine can kill both healthy and cancerous cells, it has a greater effect on cells that are multiplying rapidly. Generally, cancer cells multiply more rapidly than healthy cells and are, therefore, more affected by gemcitabine.