Cancer Connect

Generic Name: Idarubicin (eye-da-ROO-bi-sin)

Trade Name: Idamycin®, Idamycin PFS®

How is this drug used? Idarubicin is FDA approved for treatment in combination with other approved products for acute myelogenous leukemia. It is important for patients to remember that physicians have the ability to prescribe medication for conditions other than those for which the drug has been approved by the FDA. Patients who have received a prescription of this drug for a condition other than which it is approved may wish to discuss this issue with their physician.

What is the mechanism of action? Idarubicin belongs to a group of drugs called anthracycline antitumor antibiotics. Idarubicin produces its anti-cancer effects by binding to DNA and inhibiting the production of proteins necessary for sustaining life of a cell.

How is idarubicin given (administered)? Idarubicin is given intravenously (into a vein) and the dose depends on several factors, including the condition being treated, the size of the patient, the particular treatment regimen being used and the overall health of the patient. If idarubicin escapes from the vein in which it is being administered, it may cause serious damage to tissues that it comes into contact with.  Although patients will be monitored for this, they should tell their healthcare provider immediately if they experience pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the drug administration.

How are patients monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while they are being treated with idarubicin.  Typically, blood will be drawn to check levels of blood cells and to monitor functions of some organ systems, such as the kidneys or liver.  Patients may also undergo physical examinations, scans or other measures to assess side effects and response to therapy.

In addition, patients treated with idarubicin will have their heart function monitored prior to treatment and at intervals during treatment as a serious side effect that damages the heart may occur.

What are the common (occur in 30% or more of patients) side effects of treatment with idarubicin?


 Low white blood cell levels increases risk of infection

 Low red blood cell levels increases risk of anemia

 Low platelet levels increases risk of bleeding

 Nausea or vomiting

 Mouth sores


 Abdominal cramps

 Loss of hair

 Pain near at or near the site of drug administration


 Skin abnormalities

 Lung abnormalities

What are the less common (occur in 10% to 29% of patients) side effects of treatment with idarubicin?


 Changes in nails


 Pain, redness, swelling, rash and/or peeling of the palms of the hands or soles of the feet (hand-foot syndrome)

 Abnormalities in heart rhythm

 Abnormalities in liver function levels, as determined by blood tests

 Darkening of the skin at the site of previous radiation treatment

 Discoloration of urine (reddish)

What are the possible late side effects of treatment with idarubicin? Patients may experience a side effect that causes damage to the heart. Although rare, this side effect causes abnormalities in the way the heart pumps blood. Patients will be monitored for this side effect and should speak with their physician about this possible late side effect.

This is not a complete list of side effects. Some patients may experience other side effects that are not listed here. Patients may wish to discuss with their physician the other less common side effects of this drug, some of which may be serious.

Some side effects may require medical attention. Other side effects do not require medical attention and may go away during treatment. Patients should check with their physician about any side effects that continue or are bothersome.

What can patients do to help alleviate or prevent discomfort and side effects?

 Pay careful attention to the physicians instructions and inform the physician of any side effects.

 Maintain adequate rest and nutrition.

 Wear sunscreen and protective clothing and try to minimize sun exposure.

 Drink plenty of fluids. (Patients should ask their physician about the amount of liquid to consume during a day.)

 If possible, avoid large crowds or people who are sick or not feeling well, as this drug may leave some patients susceptible to infection.

 Wash hands often to reduce the risk of infection.

 Eat small meals frequently to help alleviate nausea.

 If patients have been prescribed an anti-nausea medication, they should be sure to take the prescribed doses.

 Avoid activities that may cause injury or bruising.

 Use a soft toothbrush and an electric razor to prevent cuts on the mouth or skin.

 For mouth sores, patients should rinse their mouth three times a day with a salt and soda solution (8 ounces of water mixed with ½ to 1 tsp baking soda and/or ½ to 1 tsp salt) and brush their teeth with a soft toothbrush to help prevent the development of mouth sores.

Are there any special precautions patients should be aware of before starting treatment?

 Patients should inform their physician if they are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a family in the near future. This drug may cause birth defects. It is important to use some kind of birth control while undergoing treatment. Also, patients may want to talk to their physician if they are considering having children in the future, since some drugs may cause fertility problems.

 It is important that patients inform their physician of any pre-existing conditions (chicken pox, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease, etc.) as they may worsen with this drug.

 Patients should inform their physician of any other medication they are taking (whether prescription or over-the-counter, including vitamins, herbs, etc.) as they may interfere with treatment.

 Patients should check with their physician before starting any new drug or nutritional supplement.

 Patients should inform their physician of any known drug or food allergies or any reactions to medications they have experienced in the past.

When should patients notify their physician?

 Swelling of feet, ankles or face

 Yellowing of skin or eyes

 Pain, burning or blistering at the site of drug administration

 Red streaks along injected vein

 Noticeable changes in heart rate or rhythm, chest pain

 Signs of infection (redness, swelling, tenderness, pus)

 Little or no urine output for 8 to 12 hours

 Flu or cold-like symptoms fever, chills, sore throat, cough

 Signs of infection redness, swelling, pus, tenderness

 Persistent or severe fatigue

 Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath

 Chest pain

 Unexplained or pronounced bleeding (nosebleeds, bruising, blood in the urine, black tarry stools, etc.)

 Persistant nausea or vomiting

 Mouth sores


 Numbness or tingling in hands or feet

What is a package insert?

A package insert is required by the FDA and contains a summary of the essential scientific information needed for the safe and effective use of the drug for healthcare providers and consumers.  A package insert typically includes information regarding specific indications, administration schedules, dosing, side effects, contraindications, results from some clinical trials, chemical structure, pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the specific drug. By carefully reviewing the package insert, you will get the most complete and current information about how to safely use this drug. If you do not have the package insert for the drug you are using, your pharmacist or physician may be able to provide you with a copy.

Copyright © 2018 CancerConnect Last updated 01/05.

Important Limitations of Use

The information provided above on the drug you have selected is provided for your information only and is not a substitute for consultation with an appropriate medical doctor. We are providing this information solely as a courtesy and, as such, it is in no way a recommendation as to the safety, efficacy or appropriateness of any particular drug, regimen, dosing schedule for any particular cancer, condition or patient nor is it in any way to be considered medical advice. Patients should discuss the appropriateness of a particular drug or chemotherapy regimen with their physician.

As with any printed reference, the use of particular drugs, regimens and drug dosages may become out-of-date over time, since new information may have been published and become generally accepted after the latest update to this printed information. Please keep in mind that health care professionals are fully responsible for practicing within current standards, avoiding use of outdated regimens, employing good clinical judgment in selecting drugs and/or regimens, in calculating doses for individual patients, and verifying all dosage calculations.



The prescribing physician is solely responsible for making all decisions relating to appropriate patient care including, but not limited to, drugs, regimens, dose, schedule, and any supportive care.


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