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Why is this medication prescribed?

Imatinib is a prescription medication that is primarily used to treat certain types of cancer. It belongs to a class of drugs known as tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Imatinib works by inhibiting the activity of specific tyrosine kinases, which are enzymes that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Imatinib is commonly prescribed for the treatment of the following conditions:

  • Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML): It is the most common use of imatinib. CML is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and is characterized by the presence of an abnormal chromosome called the Philadelphia chromosome. Imatinib helps to block the signals that promote the growth of cancer cells in CML.
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL): Imatinib may be prescribed in certain cases of ALL, a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells. It is typically used when the Philadelphia chromosome is present in the leukemic cells.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST): GIST is a rare type of cancer that originates in the gastrointestinal tract, particularly in the stomach or small intestine. Imatinib can effectively target and inhibit the specific protein that drives the growth of GIST tumors.
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP): DFSP is a rare type of skin cancer that typically develops on the trunk or limbs. Imatinib can be used as a treatment option for DFSP that cannot be adequately addressed with surgery.

How should this medicine be used?

Here are some general guidelines on how Imatinib is typically used:

  • Dosage: The dosage of Imatinib can vary depending on the type of cancer being treated and individual patient factors. It is usually taken orally in the form of tablets or capsules. The dosage will be determined by your doctor, and it is important to follow their instructions carefully.
  • Timing: Imatinib is often taken once daily, with or without food. However, the specific instructions may vary, so it is important to read the medication label and follow the advice of your healthcare provider.
  • Swallowing: Imatinib tablets or capsules should be swallowed whole with a glass of water. Do not crush, chew, or break the tablets or capsules unless specifically instructed to do so by your doctor.
  • Duration: The duration of Imatinib treatment will depend on the type of cancer and your individual response to the medication. It is often taken for a prolonged period, sometimes years, to keep the cancer under control. Do not stop taking Imatinib without consulting your doctor, even if you start feeling better.
  • Follow-up: Regular follow-up visits with your healthcare provider are important to monitor your response to Imatinib and to check for any potential side effects. They may perform blood tests or other assessments to evaluate your progress.
  • Side Effects: Like any medication, Imatinib can cause side effects. Common side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, fatigue, and skin rash. It is essential to discuss any side effects you experience with your doctor, as they may be able to provide guidance or adjust the dosage if needed.

It is crucial to remember that the information provided here is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about the use of Imatinib, please consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for personalized guidance.

Other uses for this medicine

However, there are other potential uses associated with this medication. Here’s some information:

  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP): Imatinib has shown effectiveness in the treatment of DFSP, a rare type of skin cancer. It can be used in cases where surgical removal is not feasible or for advanced or metastatic DFSP.
  • Hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) and systemic mastocytosis: Imatinib can be used to treat these rare disorders characterized by abnormal production and accumulation of certain types of white blood cells.
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS): Imatinib may be used in certain cases of MDS, a group of disorders that affect the production of healthy blood cells in the bone marrow.

What special precautions should I follow?

Special Precautions for Imatinib:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Imatinib may cause harm to the fetus or nursing infant, so it should be used with caution during pregnancy and avoided during breastfeeding. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits with a healthcare provider.
  • Liver and kidney function: Imatinib is metabolized in the liver and eliminated through the kidneys. Therefore, individuals with impaired liver or kidney function may require dose adjustments or close monitoring while taking this medication.
  • Cardiac conditions: Imatinib may cause fluid retention or edema, which can exacerbate existing cardiac conditions. Individuals with a history of heart disease or risk factors for heart failure should be closely monitored during treatment.
  • Blood disorders: Imatinib can affect blood cell counts, including white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Regular blood tests are necessary to monitor for any abnormalities, and dosage adjustments may be required.
  • Interactions with other medications: Imatinib can interact with various medications, including those metabolized by liver enzymes or affecting heart rhythm. It is crucial to inform your healthcare provider about all the medications, supplements, and herbal products you are taking to avoid potential interactions.

It’s important to note that the information provided here is not exhaustive, and it’s always advisable to consult a healthcare professional for specific guidance and precautions regarding the use of imatinib or any other medication.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

When taking Imatinib, it’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. While there are no specific dietary restrictions associated with Imatinib, here are some general guidelines:

  • Take Imatinib with a meal: It is generally recommended to take Imatinib with a meal to improve absorption and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects. However, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the timing and specific food requirements.
  • Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice: Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can interfere with the metabolism of Imatinib and may increase its blood levels, leading to a higher risk of side effects. It’s advisable to avoid consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice while taking this medication.
  • Stay hydrated: It is important to maintain good hydration while taking Imatinib. Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day, unless advised otherwise by your doctor.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

If you forget to take a dose of Imatinib, here’s what you should do:

  • If it has been less than 12 hours since the missed dose: Take the missed dose as soon as you remember, then resume your regular dosing schedule.
  • If it has been more than 12 hours since the missed dose: Skip the missed dose and wait until the next scheduled dose. Do not take a double dose to make up for the missed one.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Here are some of the common and potential side effects associated with imatinib:

  • Gastrointestinal disturbances: Imatinib can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and indigestion.
  • Fatigue: Some individuals may experience fatigue or general weakness while taking imatinib.
  • Fluid retention: Imatinib can cause fluid retention, resulting in swelling of the extremities, such as the hands, feet, or ankles.
  • Muscle cramps: Imatinib may lead to muscle cramps or pain.
  • Skin rashes: Skin rashes, itching, or dry skin can occur in some individuals taking imatinib.
  • Headache: Some people may experience headaches as a side effect of imatinib.
  • Bone or joint pain: Imatinib can cause bone pain or joint discomfort.
  • Low blood counts: Imatinib may cause a decrease in red blood cells (anemia), white blood cells (leukopenia), or platelets (thrombocytopenia).
  • Liver toxicity: Rarely, imatinib can affect liver function and cause liver enzyme abnormalities.
  • Heart problems: In rare cases, imatinib may lead to heart-related side effects, such as heart failure or irregular heart rhythms.
  • Pulmonary complications: Some individuals may experience shortness of breath or other respiratory issues while taking imatinib.

It’s important to note that not all individuals will experience these side effects, and the severity can vary. If you are taking imatinib and experiencing any concerning or persistent side effects, it is crucial to consult your healthcare provider for appropriate evaluation and guidance.

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


  • Keep Imatinib in its original packaging or container provided by the pharmacist.
  • Store the medication at room temperature, away from direct light, heat, and moisture.
  • Keep it out of reach of children and pets.
  • Do not store Imatinib in the bathroom or any area with high humidity.
  • Follow any specific storage instructions provided by your pharmacist or healthcare provider.


  • Do not flush Imatinib down the toilet or drain unless instructed to do so.
  • Follow your local guidelines or regulations regarding medication disposal.
  • If you are unsure how to dispose of Imatinib safely, consult your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

In case of emergency/overdose

  • In case of an emergency or suspected overdose, immediately call your local emergency services or poison control center.
  • Provide them with as much information as possible, including the dosage taken and the time of ingestion.
  • Do not induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by medical professionals.
  • If possible, have the original packaging or container of Imatinib available for reference.

What other information should I know?

  • It’s important to take Imatinib exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not change the dosage or stop taking the medication without consulting them first.
  • Inform your doctor about any other medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements, that you are currently taking, as they may interact with Imatinib.
  • Attend all scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your progress and discuss any concerns or side effects you may be experiencing.
  • Imatinib can cause various side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle cramps. If you experience severe or persistent side effects, contact your doctor.
  • Store the medication out of the reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion.

Remember, this information is meant to provide a general overview. Always consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for specific instructions and guidance regarding the storage, disposal, and emergency procedures for Imatinib based on your individual circumstances.

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