What to Know About Tasigna (Nilotinib)

A chemotherapy drug used to treat leukemia

In This Article

Tasigna (nilotinib) is a chemotherapy drug under the class of signal transduction inhibitors or kinase inhibitors. This class of drugs works to stop the growth of cancer by stopping the production of certain proteins on the cellular level. This medication targets cancer cells and stops their growth by starving the cells of their ability to multiply. Tasigna is an oral medication which is used to treat many types of leukemia when found in their early stages.

Uses

Tasigna is most commonly used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia, which is a cancer affecting the white blood cells. Tasigna may also be prescribed for the treatment of a similar type of leukemia called Philadelphia chromosome-positive leukemia. Tasigna is often used as a second-line treatment for other types of leukemia which have not responded to the standard first-line prescription medications.

An off-label use for Tasigna is the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body dementia. Early research studies have shown improvements in the motor and cognitive function of individuals with moderate Parkinson’s disease and mild to severe cognitive decline related to Lewy Body dementia. Results from a six-month study showed 10 out of 11 patients reported significant clinical improvement. When used for this purpose, Tasigna was taken in smaller doses and resulted in less severe side effects than its traditional use. Additional research studies are being done regarding effectiveness and doses.

Before Taking

Individuals should be thoroughly evaluated to determine if they are a good fit to take Tasigna. You should tell your doctor if you are taking any herbal supplements, prescription medications, or other medications. This will ensure your safety and help your doctor plan for dosing and other recommendations. Your medical history will also be reviewed to ensure there are no conditions which will interfere with the effectiveness of Tasigna. 

Tasigna is the first-line treatment for leukemia and is often chosen as a second-line treatment for other types of leukemia if other medications fail. There are no major differences between brand name and generic versions of Tasigna.

Precautions and Contraindications

It is important to avoid grapefruit juice while taking Tasigna, as the high acid content interferes with the mechanisms of this medication. While you are taking Tasigna, ask your doctor before receiving any immunizations or vaccinations, as these may also interfere with Tasigna.

It is not recommended to take Tasigna while breastfeeding and becoming pregnant while taking Tasigna will cause injury to the fetus. Individuals with low bone marrow activity, a condition called myelosuppression, should use Tasigna with caution as this may result in fluctuating blood counts.

Tasigna may place individuals with heart conditions at a greater risk for clogged arteries. Individuals with elevated serum levels, electrolyte abnormalities, and fluid retention should have these issues addressed before taking Tasigna. Otherwise, Tasigna may cause a worsening of these symptoms including fluctuating blood counts.

Individuals who have had their stomach removed in a process called a total gastrectomy should take caution when taking Tasigna. These individuals are often advised to seek alternative treatments or undergo frequent monitoring if they opt to take Tasigna.

Dosages may be adjusted to accommodate for elderly and pediatric populations who are taking Tasigna. Tasigna is recommended for use in children over the age of one year old and adults.

Other Kinase Inhibitors

  • Bosutinib
  • Dasatinib
  • Imatinib
  • Ponatinib

Dosage

Most adults typically take 300-400 milligram (mg) capsules of Tasigna twice per day. All listed dosages are according to the drug manufacturer. Check your prescription and talk to your doctor to make sure you are taking the right dose for you.

Modifications

When prescribed for children, the recommended dose of Tasigna is 230 mg twice daily. Different strengths may be combined to achieve the appropriate dosage as recommended by your doctor.

How to Take and Store

Tasigna should not be taken with any food. Tasigna works best if it is taken around the same time each day, but at least 12 hours apart. It is recommended you take Tasigna with a full glass of water. Do not crush or break the capsule in any way, as this negatively impacts the effectiveness of the medication. Be sure to avoid eating for two hours before taking Tasigna and for one hour after taking Tasigna.

Individuals who are unable to swallow whole capsules may mix the contents of the capsule into one teaspoon of applesauce. Once combined with applesauce, the mixture should be eaten within 15 minutes. This combination is not to be stored for later use, as this alters the chemical composition of the medication and may cause serious side effects.

If you miss a dose of Tasigna, do not double up and take two doses at once. Resume taking Tasigna at your next scheduled dose and notify your doctor.

In the event of an overdose on Tasigna or the ingestion of Tasigna with recreational drugs and alcohol, an individual may experience vomiting, drowsiness, and low white blood cell count.

If you have overdosed on Tasigna, call an emergency care provider and notify your doctor. A low white blood cell count has the potential to develop into a more serious condition if it is not treated.

Tasigna should be stored at room temperature in a tightly sealed container. Tasigna should be properly discarded of once it is no longer needed or expired. Contact your local pharmacy for questions regarding disposing of prescription medications.

Side Effects

Common

Common and minor side effects from taking Tasigna include rash, itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, loss of appetite, dizziness, fatigue, low blood counts, headache, insomnia, night sweats, muscle cramps, swollen hands or feet, elevated liver enzymes, high blood glucose levels, joint and muscle pain, hair loss, skin changes, and numbness/tingling to the hands or feet.

Severe

Severe side effects from taking Tasigna include excessive bleeding or bruising, dark urine or urine with blood, difficulty walking, speaking, thinking, or seeing, chest pain, intense stomach pain, signs of infection, difficulty breathing, weight gain, yellow skin or eyes, and tarry stools.

If you are experiencing major changes in your ability to walk, speak, think, or see, contact emergency services. For other symptoms, notify your doctor.

Tasigna may also cause slowed growth and development of children. If your child is demonstrating significant delays in development and you have concerns, consult your doctor.

Warnings and Interactions

Individuals with hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, or long QT syndrome should not take Tasigna. Individuals taking St. John’s wort should not take Tasigna, as St. John’s wort may decrease the effectiveness of Tasigna. Individuals should not take any aspirin or aspirin products while taking Tasigna.

There is a black box warning for Tasigna stating a high risk of sudden death for individuals with a condition called prolonged QT, which causes a fast and irregular heartbeat.

Individuals taking antifungal medications and immunosuppressive medications should not take Tasigna. Other medications which should not be taken with Tasigna include haloperidol, methadone, moxifloxacin, nefazodone, pimozide, procainamide, quinidine, sotalol, telithromycin, and thioridazine.

You should not stop taking Tasigna without consulting your doctor. However, individuals are able to discontinue the use of Tasigna once their condition has been in remission for an approved period of time. These individuals will continue to be closely monitored and undergo extensive laboratory testing every four weeks for the first year after Tasigna is discontinued.

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