This anticancer drug is used for the treatment of colorectal cancer (carcinoma of colon and rectum) that has spread to the other parts of the body.

Drug class:  Antineoplastic agent; Topoisomerase I inhibitor

 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

Irinotecan binds to topoisomerase I (a DNA replication and RNA transcription enzyme) and works by blocking enzymatic activity, causing DNA damage and cell death.

Side effects

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, loss of hair temporarily, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, trouble breathing or sleeping, mouth sores, itching/rashes/hives.


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

  • If you are allergic to it 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, decreased levels of WBCs, RBCs, and platelets, diabetes, fructose intolerance (unable to digest natural sugar),
  • If you have had radiation treatment or any recent surgery,
  • Limit alcohol consumption as it makes you more tired, drowsy, and loss of alertness may occur.
  • You should not receive any vaccines while using this drug.
  • Avoid contact with people who have any communicable disease, or to prevent the spread of infections.
  • Use of this medication is not recommended during pregnancy.
  • You should avoid breastfeeding while taking irinotecan.
  • You should not become pregnant while taking this drug. If you get pregnant or think you may be pregnant, consult your doctor.


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