Gleevec is a prescription drug that is used to treat some cancers. This drug prevents cancer cells from growing. Gleevec is also generically called imatinib mesylate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gleevec in 2001. Novartis is the pharmaceutical manufacturer of Gleevec. Two of the types of cancers Gleevec treats are Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) and Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST). For more information, see the Gleevec FAQs.
Research on Gleevec
A Nature Medicine report in 2006 showed that Gleevec can cause heart problems for patients with CML. However, as the overall cancer survival rate of CML patients using Gleevec is extremely high, while the reported heart failures rate is low, many healthcare professionals say the benefits of Gleevec outweigh its risks.
Preventing Infections While Using Gleevec
Gleevec can increase your risk of getting an infection, due to possibly lowering your white blood cell count. Therefore, you'll want to be extra cautious while using Gleevec. Gleevec can also lower your platelet count, which decreases your blood's ability to clot properly. To reduce the risk of infection or bleeding, you can take the following precautions:
- Avoid people with infections. Tell your healthcare professional immediately if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.
- Check with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising; black, tarry stools; blood in urine or stools; or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
- Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Talk to your healthcare professional about other ways you can clean your teeth and gums and before having any dental work done.
- Don't touch your eyes or the inside of your nose unless you have just washed your hands and have not touched anything else in the meantime.
- Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
- Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur.
- Avoid being around persons who have taken an oral polio vaccine, as being in contact with them while your body's resistance is lowered increases your chances of contracting the polio virus.
Gleevec and Other Medications
Gleevec can interact with other medications, alcohol, or recreational drugs. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbs or supplements, as well as any alcohol or recreational drug use.
Be sure to tell your healthcare professional if you take any of the following medications or foods that may increase the amount of Gleevec in your blood, putting you at greater risk of side effects:
- Grapefruit, grapefruit juice, or grapefruit-containing food or vitamins
Conversely, other medications may decrease the amount of Gleevec in your blood, therefore decreasing its effectiveness. These medications and supplements include:
- St. John's Wort
Getting Legal Help
While most medications have certain anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to make its products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible if patients are injured as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous nature of the drug, under a legal theory called "product liability."
If you or a loved one have experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions while taking Gleevec, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also wish to meet with an experienced product liability attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Gleevec use.
To learn more about an attorney's role in a pharmaceutical liability case, read the Get Legal Help with a Defective Product Injury article.