Precautions and Warnings With Gemcitabine

There are several important precautions and warnings with gemcitabine to be aware of before taking the medication, including potential side effects that may occur and information on who should not take the drug. Gemcitabine may potentially cause kidney damage or liver problems, decrease the bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells, or cause lung damage. Gemcitabine is not suitable for everyone; you shouldn't take gemcitabine if you are allergic to any components used to make the medicine.

Gemcitabine: What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking gemcitabine (Gemzar®) 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
  • 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.
 

Specific Precautions and Warnings With Gemcitabine

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking gemcitabine include:
 
  • Gemcitabine can decrease the bone marrow's ability to produce blood cells. This can result in anemia and other serious conditions. Because your immune system depends on certain blood cells, you may be more susceptible to infections while taking gemcitabine (see Chemotherapy and Infections). You may also be at a higher risk of bleeding (see Blood Clotting Problems and Chemotherapy). You will need regular blood tests during treatment with gemcitabine to make sure your blood counts are not too low.
     
  • Gemcitabine can cause lung damage. Let your healthcare provider know right away if you have difficulty breathing.
     
  • Gemcitabine can cause kidney damage or liver problems in some people. You may need blood tests to monitor your kidney and liver function while you are taking gemcitabine.
 
  • A few cases of capillary leak syndrome have been reported in people taking this medication. Capillary leak syndrome is a rare but potentially deadly problem. Signs might include:
    • Fatigue and weakness, along with muscle pain and sometimes fever, vomiting, and diarrhea (these signs appear initially)
    • Severe water weight gain and swelling, combined with low blood pressure (these signs appear later).
 
  • Gemcitabine can potentially interact with certain other medications (see Drug Interactions With Gemcitabine).
     
  • Gemcitabine is considered a pregnancy Category D medication. This means that it is probably not safe for use during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using the drug during pregnancy (see Gemzar and Pregnancy).
     
  • It is not known if gemcitabine passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start breastfeeding, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Gemzar and Breastfeeding).
     
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