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Gleevec (Generic Imatinib)

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Why is this medication prescribed?

Gleevec, also known by its generic name imatinib, is a medication primarily prescribed for the treatment of certain types of cancer. It belongs to a class of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Gleevec is commonly used in the treatment of:

  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): Gleevec is highly effective in treating CML, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. It works by inhibiting the activity of the abnormal tyrosine kinase enzyme produced by the Philadelphia chromosome, which is characteristic of CML.
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL): Gleevec may also be prescribed in cases of ALL, another type of leukemia, particularly when other treatments have not been successful.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST): Gleevec is used to treat GIST, which are tumors that form in the gastrointestinal tract. It inhibits the abnormal tyrosine kinase activity that drives the growth of these tumors.

Gleevec is often considered a breakthrough medication in cancer treatment due to its effectiveness in targeting specific molecular abnormalities associated with these cancers. It has significantly improved the prognosis and quality of life for many patients diagnosed with these conditions. However, like all medications, it may have side effects and should be used under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.

How should this medicine be used?

Gleevec (imatinib) should be used exactly as prescribed by a healthcare provider. It is typically taken orally, usually once or twice daily with a meal and a large glass of water. Here are some general guidelines for using Gleevec:

  • Follow Prescribing Instructions: Always follow the dosage and administration instructions provided by your healthcare provider. The dosage may vary depending on the type of cancer being treated and other individual factors such as your weight and overall health.
  • Take with Food and Water: Gleevec should be taken with a meal and a large glass of water to help ensure proper absorption and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea and stomach upset.
  • Do Not Crush or Chew: Swallow the tablets whole. Do not crush, chew, or break them apart, as this can affect the way the medication is absorbed in the body.
  • Stick to the Schedule: Take Gleevec at the same time(s) each day to maintain a consistent level of the medication in your bloodstream. This can help optimize its effectiveness.
  • Do Not Skip Doses: It’s important to take Gleevec regularly as prescribed, even if you start feeling better or experience side effects. Skipping doses could reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Report Side Effects: If you experience any side effects while taking Gleevec, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, muscle cramps, or swelling, notify your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance on managing side effects or adjust your dosage if necessary.
  • Do Not Stop Abruptly: Do not stop taking Gleevec without consulting your healthcare provider, even if you start feeling better. Abruptly discontinuing the medication could lead to disease progression or other complications.
  • Store Properly: Store Gleevec tablets at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Keep them in the original packaging and out of reach of children.

Always communicate openly with your healthcare provider about your treatment, including any concerns or questions you may have about taking Gleevec. They can provide personalized guidance based on your individual medical history and needs.

Other uses for this medicine

Gleevec (imatinib) may sometimes be prescribed off-label for other conditions. These may include:

  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP): Gleevec has shown effectiveness in treating DFSP, a rare type of skin cancer characterized by abnormal growths in the deep layers of the skin.
  • Systemic mastocytosis: Gleevec may be used in the treatment of systemic mastocytosis, a disorder characterized by the abnormal accumulation of mast cells in various organs of the body.

What special precautions should I follow?

Special precautions should be taken when using Gleevec. Here are some important considerations:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Gleevec can cause harm to a developing fetus, so it is essential to use effective contraception during treatment and avoid becoming pregnant. Additionally, breastfeeding is not recommended while taking Gleevec due to the potential risk of harm to the infant.
  • Liver and kidney function: Gleevec is metabolized by the liver and excreted by the kidneys. Patients with impaired liver or kidney function may require dose adjustments or closer monitoring while taking Gleevec.
  • Cardiac function: Gleevec may affect heart function in some patients, leading to fluid retention, heart failure, or other cardiovascular problems. Patients with pre-existing heart conditions should be closely monitored while taking Gleevec.
  • Blood cell counts: Gleevec can cause changes in blood cell counts, including decreases in white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Regular blood tests may be needed to monitor for these effects and adjust treatment as necessary.
  • Drug interactions: Gleevec can interact with other medications, potentially affecting their effectiveness or increasing the risk of side effects. It’s essential to inform your healthcare provider about all medications, supplements, and herbal products you are taking before starting Gleevec.
  • Skin reactions: Some patients may experience skin reactions such as rash, dry skin, or itching while taking Gleevec. These symptoms should be reported to a healthcare provider, who can provide guidance on managing them.
  • Eye problems: Gleevec has been associated with vision changes and other eye problems in some patients. If you experience any changes in vision or eye discomfort while taking Gleevec, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly.

Patients should always communicate openly with their healthcare provider about any concerns or questions regarding the use of Gleevec, including potential side effects or interactions with other medications.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

Regarding special dietary instructions for Gleevec, it’s generally recommended to take the medication with a meal and a large glass of water to help ensure proper absorption and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea and stomach upset. However, there are no specific dietary restrictions associated with Gleevec unless directed by your healthcare provider.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

If you forget to take a dose of Gleevec, you should take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose, you should skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are unsure about what to do, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for guidance.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Gleevec (imatinib) can cause a range of side effects, although not everyone will experience them, and their severity can vary from person to person. Some common side effects of Gleevec include:

  • Nausea and vomiting: These are among the most common side effects of Gleevec. Taking the medication with food and water can help reduce these symptoms.
  • Diarrhea: Gleevec can cause diarrhea, which may range from mild to severe. Staying hydrated and consuming a balanced diet can help manage this side effect.
  • Muscle cramps: Some people may experience muscle cramps or muscle pain while taking Gleevec.
  • Fatigue: Gleevec can cause fatigue or tiredness, which may affect daily activities. Getting plenty of rest and avoiding strenuous activities can help manage fatigue.
  • Headache: Headaches are another common side effect of Gleevec, although they are usually mild and temporary.
  • Skin rash: Some individuals may develop a rash or skin irritation while taking Gleevec. Inform your healthcare provider if you experience any skin changes.
  • Fluid retention: Gleevec may cause fluid retention, leading to swelling of the ankles, feet, or other parts of the body.
  • Decreased blood cell counts: Gleevec can lower the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets in the blood, increasing the risk of infections, anemia, and bleeding.
  • Liver toxicity: In some cases, Gleevec may cause liver damage, leading to elevated liver enzymes or hepatitis.
  • Cardiac effects: Gleevec may affect heart function in some individuals, leading to heart failure or other cardiovascular problems.

It’s important to note that these are not all possible side effects of Gleevec, and other side effects may occur. Additionally, some individuals may experience more severe side effects or adverse reactions. If you experience any concerning symptoms while taking Gleevec, it’s essential to inform your healthcare provider promptly. They can provide guidance on managing side effects and may adjust your treatment regimen if necessary.

What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?

Storage and disposal of Gleevec:


  • Store Gleevec tablets at room temperature, away from moisture and heat.
  • Keep the medication in its original packaging, tightly closed, and out of reach of children.
  • Do not store Gleevec in the bathroom or kitchen, where it might be exposed to moisture or heat.


  • Dispose of any unused or expired Gleevec tablets properly, following the guidelines provided by your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
  • Do not flush Gleevec down the toilet or pour it down the drain unless instructed to do so.
  • Instead, consult your local pharmacy or healthcare facility for proper disposal options, such as medication take-back programs.

In case of emergency/overdose

  • In case of an overdose of Gleevec, seek emergency medical attention or contact a poison control center immediately.
  • Symptoms of overdose may include severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, fluid retention, and potential liver or kidney toxicity.
  • Be prepared to provide information about the amount of Gleevec ingested and any symptoms experienced.

What other information should I know?

  • Inform all healthcare providers involved in your care that you are taking Gleevec, including dentists and pharmacists.
  • Attend all scheduled medical appointments and laboratory tests as recommended by your healthcare provider to monitor your response to treatment and detect any potential side effects or complications.
  • Avoid activities that require alertness or coordination until you know how Gleevec affects you, as it may cause dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Keep a list of all medications you are taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and herbal products, and share this list with your healthcare provider to prevent potential drug interactions.
  • If you are planning to undergo surgery or dental procedures, inform your healthcare provider or dentist about your Gleevec treatment, as it may need to be temporarily discontinued or adjusted.
  • Do not share Gleevec with others, as it is prescribed specifically for your condition and may not be suitable for someone else.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about Gleevec or your treatment plan, do not hesitate to discuss them with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for clarification and guidance.
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