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Cetuximab

Use

This anticancer drug is used for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer (carcinoma of the colon and rectum) and squamous cell cancer of the head and neck.

Drug class:  Antineoplastic agent; monoclonal antibody

Route of administration: Intravenous

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Is it a drug that needs a prescription? YES

Is it an OTC drug? NO

Mechanism of action

Cetuximab binds to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) present on normal as well as cancerous cells. This chemotherapy drug works by blocking this receptor and preventing the growth and proliferation of cancerous cells.

Side effects

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, dry skin, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, confusion, sore mouth/throat, constipation, pain in muscle or joints, headache, numbness/ tingling in the hands or feet, weight loss, hair loss, changes in the fingernails or toenails, swelling  or pain at injection site.

Serious side effects

Trouble breathing or sleeping, loss of vision, chest pain, blister on skin, itching/rashes/hives. 

Precautions

Take the following precautions before using this drug and notify your doctor:

  • If you are allergic to it, if you are allergic to meat, or if you have any other allergies,
  •  If you are taking any other medications (prescribed, non-prescribed, or herbal products),
  • If you have a medical history of renal disease, hepatic disease, lung disease, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, tick bites,
  • If you have had radiation treatment,
  • Limit alcohol consumption as it makes you drowsy and loss of alertness may occur.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight during treatment and for the next 2 months after treatment.
  • Use of this medication is not recommended during pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding should be avoided while the treatment is going on and for the next 2 weeks after stopping the use of this drug.
  • You should not become pregnant while taking this drug. If you plan to get pregnant, consult your doctor.
  • Use of this drug may affect fertility in women.

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