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Pemetrexed is a prescription used for the treatment of lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Your lungs are two spongy organs in your chest that take in oxygen when you inhale and release carbon dioxide when you exhale. People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer, though lung cancer can also occur in people who have never smoked. The risk of lung cancer increases with the length of time and the number of cigarettes you’ve smoked. If you quit smoking even after smoking for many years, you can significantly reduce your chances of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause signs and symptoms in its earliest stages. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • Coughing up blood, even a small amount
  • A new cough that doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Chest pain
  • Bone pain
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Headache

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs called mesothelium. It is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer. Signs and symptoms of mesothelioma vary depending on where cancer occurs such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough or wheezing
  • Pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Respiratory complications
  • Pleural effusion (fluid around the lungs)
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue

Pemetrexed is a type of chemotherapy medicine for cancer called cytotoxic antimetabolite. Antimetabolites are very similar to normal substances within the cell. When the cells incorporate substances like Pemetrexed into themselves during growth, the cells lose the ability to divide. These are cell-cycle specific meaning; they act on the cells at very specific phases in the cells’ replication cycle. Pemetrexed is a sterile white-to-light yellow or green-yellow lyophilized powder in single-dose vials. Each 100 mg and 500 mg vial contains Pemetrexed as an active ingredient. This medication is available for intravenous infusion. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved this medication.

How does Pemetrexed work?

Cancers form when some cells within the body multiply uncontrollably and abnormally. These cells then spread and destroy nearby tissues. Pemetrexed works by stopping the cancer cells from multiplying and dividing. It does this by disturbing the production of RNA and DNA, the genetic material of cells. Both RNA and DNA are needed for cells to grow, repair themselves and multiply. As Pemetrexed causes problems with the production of RNA and DNA in the cancer cells, it kills the cancer cells and stops cancer growth.

Pemetrexed may also affect normal and healthy cells particularly those that multiply quickly such as blood cells. The most important side effect is on the bone marrow where blood cells are made. Pemetrexed can decrease the production of blood cells, leaving people susceptible to infection. Regular blood tests are therefore needed to monitor levels of blood cells.

How to use Pemetrexed?

The dosage will depend on your medical condition, age, weight, and response to the treatment. Your doctor may direct you to start at a low dose and gradually increase it. Follow the instructions of your doctor very carefully. You should not take the medication more or less than it is prescribed. Before using this product, check it visually for particles or discoloration. If either is present, do not use the liquid. Clean the injection with rubbing alcohol before injecting each dose. Learn how to store and discard medical supplies safely. To get the most benefit from it, use the medication regularly. Remember to use the prescription at the same time each day. Let your doctor know if your condition does not improve or if it gets worse.

This prescription is given by injection into a vein. It is given over 10 minutes as directed by your doctor usually once every 3 weeks. If you missed a dose, take it as soon as you remember it. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take twice the prescribed dosage to make up for the missed dose.

What are the side effects of Pemetrexed?

Common side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Tired feeling
  • Constipation
  • Rash or itching
  • Hair loss

Tell your doctor if you have serious side effects of this drug including:

  • Changes in the amount of urine
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Yellowing eyes or skin
  • Dark urine
  • Severe stomach or abdominal pain
  • Sore throat
  • Redness, pain, swelling of arms or feet
  • Mental or mood changes
  • Painful or difficulty swallowing
  • Depression
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands or feet
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

Get emergency medical help if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction:

  • Hives
  • Difficulty or trouble breathing
  • Swelling of your lips, face, throat, or tongue

Warnings and Precautions

  • Before taking Pemetrexed, tell your doctor if you are allergic to it. This may not be recommended for use if you have a history of an allergic reaction. Tell as well if you have any allergies. This drug may contain an inactive ingredient that causes an allergic reaction.  
  • You may experience infusion-related reactions while having this treatment. These are usually mild to moderate but can be more severe.
  • This drug has been associated with causing heart failure. For this reason, your heart function will be checked before treatment is started and regularly throughout your treatment.
  • As medicine may be harmful to an unborn baby, women who could get pregnant should use effective contraception. It is to prevent pregnancy both during treatment and for at least 6 months after treatment is finished.
  • Before starting this treatment, discuss with your doctor about fertility. Your ability to become pregnant or father a child may be affected.
  • Consult your doctor first if you are breastfeeding women.
  • This prescription should be used with caution in people with decreased kidney function, those who have a history of heart disease, and diabetes.
  • You should also use this with caution in people who have previously had or who will be having radiotherapy or on people on a controlled sodium diet.
  • Do not have any immunizations or vaccinations without the consent of your doctor.
  • Keep this far from heat, moisture, and reach of children.