Gleevec Side Effects
Cancer medications such as Gleevec are associated with significant side effects. For example, many people taking this drug experience diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and mouth sores. Although not as common, serious problems may also occur, including allergic reactions, yellowing of the skin, or an irregular heartbeat. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of these symptoms.
Just like any cancer medicine, Gleevec® (imatinib mesylate) can cause side effects, some of which can be significant. Although not everyone who takes the medication will have problems, most people will experience some type of side effect during Gleevec treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can manage some of the more bothersome reactions.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with Gleevec. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)
Gleevec has been studied extensively in clinical trials. In these studies, the side effects that occurred in a group of people taking the drug were carefully documented and compared to those that occurred in a similar group of people taking a placebo (a "sugar pill" with no active ingredients) or a different medication. As a result, it was possible to see what side effects occurred, how often they appeared, and how they compared to the placebo or the other medicine.
In these studies, the most common Gleevec side effects included:
- Fluid retention or swelling (edema), especially around the eyes or in the legs, ankles, and feet -- in up to 86.1 percent of people
- Fatigue -- up to 74.9 percent
- Nausea -- up to 73 percent
- Muscle cramps -- up to 62 percent
- Diarrhea -- up to 59.3 percent
- Vomiting -- up to 58 percent
- Abdominal pain (stomach pain) and cramping -- up to 57.2 percent
- Bleeding -- up to 53 percent
- Rash -- up to 49.8 percent
- Muscle and bone pain -- up to 49 percent
- Fever -- up to 41 percent
- Joint pain -- up to 40 percent
- Headache -- up to 37.0 percent.
Other common reactions, occurring in 10 to 36 percent of people, included:
- Loss of appetite
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Weight gain
- Upper respiratory tract infection, such as the "common cold" or pneumonia
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Increased tearing or watering of the eyes
- Loss of energy and strength
- Shortness of breath
- General pain
- Sore throat
- Night sweats
- Hair loss
- Low blood potassium levels
- Liver problems
- Uncontrollable shaking or chills with a high fever
- Sinus infection
- Mouth sores, inflammation, or pain (see Mouth and Gum Problems During Chemotherapy)
- Chest pain.