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Keytruda (Generic Pembrolizumab Injection)

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Why is this medication prescribed?

Keytruda (generic name pembrolizumab) is a prescription medication used in the treatment of various types of cancer. It is a type of immunotherapy known as a programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1) inhibitor. Keytruda works by helping the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.

Keytruda may be prescribed for the following types of cancer:

  • Melanoma: Keytruda is approved for the treatment of advanced melanoma, including metastatic melanoma (melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body) or unresectable melanoma (melanoma that cannot be removed by surgery).
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): Keytruda is used as a first-line treatment for advanced NSCLC in certain cases. It may be prescribed as a single agent or in combination with chemotherapy.
  • Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC): Keytruda is used for the treatment of recurrent or metastatic HNSCC in patients who have failed prior platinum-based chemotherapy.
  • Classical Hodgkin lymphoma: Keytruda is prescribed for the treatment of classical Hodgkin lymphoma that has relapsed or progressed after autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) and brentuximab vedotin.
  • Urothelial carcinoma: Keytruda is used to treat advanced urothelial carcinoma (bladder cancer) that has progressed during or after platinum-containing chemotherapy or within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy.
  • Gastric cancer: Keytruda is approved for the treatment of advanced or metastatic gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma in patients whose tumors express PD-L1.

How should this medicine be used?

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is a prescription medication that is administered by a healthcare professional, typically in a hospital or clinic setting. It is given as an intravenous (IV) infusion, which means it is delivered directly into a vein through a needle.

The specific dosage and treatment schedule of Keytruda may vary depending on the type of cancer being treated and other individual factors. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare professional administering the medication. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Dosage: Keytruda is available in vials containing 50 mg or 100 mg of pembrolizumab. The dosage will be determined by the healthcare professional based on factors such as body weight and the specific cancer being treated.
  • Treatment Schedule: Keytruda is typically given every three weeks (every 21 days). However, the exact treatment schedule may vary depending on the individual’s condition and the specific treatment plan.
  • Administration: Keytruda is administered as an intravenous infusion over a period of approximately 30 minutes. The healthcare professional will insert a needle into a vein, usually in the arm, and the medication will be delivered slowly into the bloodstream.
  • Duration of Treatment: The duration of Keytruda treatment can vary depending on the type of cancer and the response to the medication. Some individuals may receive Keytruda for a few months, while others may require long-term treatment.

It’s important to attend all scheduled treatment sessions and follow-up appointments as advised by the healthcare professional. They will monitor the individual’s response to Keytruda and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

As with any medication, Keytruda can have side effects, some of which may be serious. It’s essential to discuss potential side effects and any concerns with the healthcare professional before starting Keytruda treatment.

Other uses for this medicine

In addition to the previously mentioned uses, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) may also be prescribed off-label or under clinical trials for other types of cancer or conditions. Off-label use refers to the use of a medication for a purpose not specifically approved by regulatory authorities, but based on clinical judgment and emerging evidence.

What special precautions should I follow?

Regarding special precautions, Keytruda is a potent immunotherapy drug that can have significant effects on the immune system. It is important to consider the following precautions:

  • Immune-related side effects: Keytruda can cause immune-related adverse reactions, where the immune system attacks healthy organs and tissues. These side effects can affect various organs, including the lungs, liver, intestines, kidneys, and hormone-producing glands. It is crucial to monitor for signs of immune-related adverse reactions and report any symptoms to the healthcare professional promptly.
  • Pre-existing autoimmune conditions: Keytruda may worsen pre-existing autoimmune conditions such as colitis, hepatitis, pneumonitis, hypophysitis, thyroid disorders, and others. It is important to inform the healthcare professional about any pre-existing autoimmune conditions before starting Keytruda treatment.
  • Infusion reactions: Keytruda infusion can rarely cause severe allergic or infusion-related reactions. These reactions may include fever, chills, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and rash. Healthcare professionals are prepared to manage such reactions during the infusion.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Keytruda can potentially harm an unborn baby, and its safety during pregnancy has not been established. It is advised to discuss with the healthcare professional if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding before starting Keytruda treatment.
  • Interactions with other medications: Keytruda can interact with certain medications. It is important to inform the healthcare professional about all the medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements, being taken to prevent any potential interactions.

It is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional who has access to your complete medical history and can provide personalized guidance and precautions based on your specific situation. They can monitor your response to Keytruda and manage any potential risks or side effects.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

There are no specific dietary instructions associated with Keytruda (pembrolizumab) treatment. However, it is generally recommended to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to support overall well-being and immune function.

What should I do if I forget a dose?

If you forget a dose of Keytruda, it is important to contact your healthcare professional or treatment team as soon as possible. They can provide guidance on the best course of action. Generally, the missed dose may be rescheduled and administered at the earliest available opportunity. It is important not to double the dose to make up for the missed one unless specifically instructed by your healthcare professional.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Keytruda (pembrolizumab) can cause various side effects, some of which may be serious and require medical attention. It’s important to note that not everyone will experience these side effects, and their severity and frequency can vary from person to person. Here are some potential side effects associated with Keytruda:

  • Immune-related side effects: Keytruda works by stimulating the immune system, and as a result, it can cause immune-related adverse reactions. These may include pneumonitis (lung inflammation), colitis (inflammation of the colon), hepatitis (liver inflammation), hypophysitis (inflammation of the pituitary gland), thyroid disorders, adrenal insufficiency, and others.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue or tiredness is a common side effect of Keytruda. It can range from mild to severe and may impact daily activities. Rest, proper nutrition, and staying hydrated can help manage fatigue.
  • Skin reactions: Keytruda can cause skin-related side effects, such as rash, itching, blistering, and changes in skin color. In some cases, more severe skin reactions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis may occur, although they are rare.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Keytruda may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite. These symptoms should be reported to your healthcare professional, as they can sometimes indicate more serious conditions like colitis.
  • Endocrine disorders: Keytruda can affect the hormone-producing glands, leading to endocrine-related side effects such as thyroid dysfunction, adrenal insufficiency, or hypophysitis.
  • Lung problems: Keytruda may cause inflammation in the lungs, leading to symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. It’s important to report any respiratory symptoms to your healthcare professional.
  • Infusion-related reactions: During the administration of Keytruda, infusion-related reactions may occur, including fever, chills, flushing, low blood pressure, and allergic reactions.
  • Other side effects: Other potential side effects of Keytruda include muscle and joint pain, headache, fever, decreased appetite, changes in taste, elevated liver enzymes, and changes in blood cell counts.

It’s important to promptly report any side effects or concerns to your healthcare professional. They can assess the severity of the side effects and provide appropriate management strategies. Early detection and intervention can help minimize potential complications and ensure the safe continuation of treatment.

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

  • Storage: Keytruda should be stored in a refrigerator between 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F). Do not freeze the medication. Keep it in its original packaging until ready for use to protect it from light.
  • Handling: Keytruda should be handled by healthcare professionals who are trained in the safe administration of intravenous medications. It should not be shaken or vigorously agitated.
  • Disposal: Any unused or expired Keytruda vials should be disposed of properly following local regulations and guidelines. It is recommended to consult with your healthcare professional or pharmacist for specific instructions on how to dispose of the medication properly.

In case of emergency/overdose

In the case of an emergency or accidental overdose, it is important to seek immediate medical assistance or contact your local emergency services. You can also contact a poison control center for guidance. Provide them with all the necessary information, including the medication name (Keytruda), dosage if known, and any relevant symptoms or reactions.

What other information should I know?

  • Regular monitoring: During Keytruda treatment, regular monitoring and follow-up appointments are necessary. This may include blood tests, imaging scans, and other assessments to evaluate the response to treatment and monitor for any potential side effects.
  • Inform healthcare professionals: Inform all your healthcare professionals, including doctors, dentists, and specialists, that you are receiving Keytruda treatment. This is important as Keytruda can affect the immune system and may impact the management of other health conditions or medications.
  • Clinical trials: Keytruda may also be used in clinical trials for other conditions and purposes. If you are participating in a clinical trial, ensure you fully understand the objectives, risks, and benefits of the trial before giving your consent.
  • Allergies: Inform your healthcare professional if you have any known allergies, especially to any medications, including other immunotherapy drugs.
  • Medication interactions: Provide a complete list of all medications, including prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal supplements, to your healthcare professional to check for any potential interactions with Keytruda.

It’s important to remember that the information provided here is a general overview. Always consult with your healthcare professional or pharmacist for specific instructions, guidance, and any personalized information regarding your Keytruda treatment.

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