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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Questions and Answers for Alimta (pemetrexed for injection)

 

1.  What is Alimta (pemetrexed for injection)?

Alimta is a new cancer drug used to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma. Alimta is given with cisplatin, another anti-cancer medicine.

 2.  What is malignant pleural mesothelioma?

Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the inside lining of the chest cavity. It is usually associated with asbestos exposure.

3.  What is asbestos and who is at risk for asbestos exposure?

Asbestos is a material made of mineral fibers that has been used by the construction and building industry for many years.  Since asbestos is not affected by heat or chemicals and does not conduct electricity it was often used as insulation.

Nearly everyone is exposed to asbestos at some time during his or her life. However, most people do not become ill from their exposure. People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material and who inhale fibers that are in the air. The risk of developing asbestos-related diseases varies with the type of industry in which the exposure occurred, the kind and size of fibers, and with the amount of exposure. For more information on asbestos visit: National Cancer Institute Fact Sheet: Asbestos Exposure and Cancer.

4.  How does Alimta work?

Alimta works by blocking specific enzymes thought to play a role in the rapid growth of these lung tumors.

5.  Is Alimta a cure for malignant pleural mesothelioma?

No, but in clinical trials patients who were treated with Alimta and cisplatin had a median survival of 12.1 months compared to 9.3 months for patients treated with cisplatin alone.

6.  How is Alimta given?

Alimta is given intravenously (into a vein), about every 21 days.  Cisplatin is then infused about 30 minutes after Alimta treatment. To lower the chances of side effects with Alimta, it is necessary to take folic acid and vitamin B12 before, during, and after treatment.

7.  What should I tell my doctor before being treated with Alimta?

To help your doctor decide if Alimta is right for you, tell your doctor if you:

  • plan to become pregnant, or if you are pregnant, might be pregnant, or do not use effective birth control, because Alimta may harm your unborn baby.
  • have kidney problems.
  • are taking other medicines, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Tell your doctor or health care provider if you are taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure, because there are many NSAID medicines.

8.  What are the possible side effects of Alimta?

Most patients treated with Alimta will experience some side effects. The most common side effects of Alimta are:

  • stomach upset, including nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea
  • a drop in white blood cells, increasing the risk of infection
  • a drop in red blood cells (anemia), causing tiredness or shortness of breath
  • a drop in platelets that results in bruising or bleeding
  • tiredness
  • mouth, throat, or lip sores
  • loss of appetite
  • rash

You should contact your doctor if you have signs of infection such as fever (temperature above 100.4F) chills, diarrhea, or mouth sores.

9.  What should I avoid while being treated with Alimta?

  • Women should avoid becoming pregnant while being treated with Alimta because Alimta may cause harm to an unborn baby.
  • Avoid taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for at least 5 days before Alimta treatment, during the day of treatment, and for two days after treatment.  If you are not sure if a drug you take is a NSAID, ask your doctor or pharmacist.  There are many NSAID medicines that are prescription and over-the-counter.

10.  What else should I know about Alimta treatment?

  • Your doctor will prescribe a medicine called a corticosteroid to take the day before, day of, and day after Alimta treatment to lower your chances of getting a skin reaction.
  • You will have regular blood tests before and during Alimta treatment so your doctor can monitor your treatment.

11. Where can I find more information on Alimta?

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