Verzenio (Abemaciclib) – Oral

What Is Verzenio?

Verzenio (abemaciclib) is an orally administered prescription medication categorized as a kinase inhibitor. Verzenio is used in the treatment of advanced or metastatic breast cancers and works by blocking two proteins—CDK4 and CDK6—which signal breast cancer cells to continue to grow. It is approved for adults 18 and older.

Verzenio is often used in combination with other oncology drugs to treat different types of breast cancer, such as hormone receptor (HR)-positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative, node-positive early breast cancer. It is also intended to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

By blocking the action of CDK4 and CDk6, proteins that signal cancer cells to multiply, Verzenio helps to slow the spread of dangerous cancer cells.

Verzenio is available as a tablet to be taken by mouth (orally).

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Abemaciclib
Brand Name: Verzenio
Drug Availability: Prescription
Administration Route: Oral
Therapeutic Classification: Antineoplastic agent
Available Generically: No
Controlled Substance: N/A
Active Ingredient: Abemaciclib
Dosage Form(s): Tablet

What Is Verzenio Used For?

Verzenio has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat breast cancer in both the early stages of breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer, meaning cancer that has spread to distant areas of the body. 

In early-stage breast cancer, Verzenio can be used with anti-estrogen medications (such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors) after surgery in those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer that is HR2-positive and HER2-negative that has spread to a local lymph node.

Additionally, the breast cancer identified for treatment with Verzenio must be diagnosed as having a high risk for recurrence. 

Verzenio may be prescribed to people with HR-positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer in combination with either an aromatase inhibitor (a class of drugs used in the treatment of breast cancer in postmenopausal people) or the drug fulvestrant.

It can also be prescribed alone for people with HR2-positive, HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer.

How to Take Verzenio

Verzenio is taken twice a day. It should be taken around the same time every day and can also be taken with or without food. The Verzenio tablets should be swallowed whole and not crushed or broken. Moreover, grapefruit juice should not be ingested when taking Verzenio.

If you vomit after taking Verzenio, do not take another dose. Continue your regular predetermined dosing schedule. Consult your provider for further instructions.

Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your healthcare provider to explain any part of the dosing instructions that you do not understand.

Storage

Verzenio should be kept at room temperature (around 69 to 77 degrees F) in its original packaging, and in a safe, dry location. Be sure to keep out of reach of children and pets. Store it away from excess heat and moisture (do not store it in the bathroom).

Unneeded or unused drugs should be disposed of in proper ways to ensure that pets, children, and others cannot accidentally digest them.

However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, dispose of your medication through a medicine take-back program.

What Are the Side Effects of Verzenio?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects.

If you experience other effects, contact your healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects associated with the use of Verzenio include:

Severe Side Effects

It is possible for Verzenio to cause severe side effects. Call your healthcare team right away if you have serious side effects. If you think your symptoms are life-threatening or if you’re having a medical emergency, call 911.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

Long-Term Side Effects

If any of the side effects are severe, it is possible they could cause long-term effects. 

Report Side Effects

Verzenio may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Verzenio Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For oral dosage form (tablets):
    • For advanced or metastatic breast cancer with anastrozole, exemestane, fulvestrant, or letrozole:
      • Adults—At first, 150 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed or tolerated.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For advanced or metastatic breast cancer used alone:
      • Adults—At first, 200 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed or tolerated.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For early breast cancer with anastrozole, exemestane, letrozole, or tamoxifen:
      • Adults—At first, 150 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day for up to 2 years. Your doctor may adjust your dose as needed or tolerated.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

The following modifications (changes) should be kept in mind when using Verzenio:

  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy should be avoided by people of reproductive potential during Verzenio treatment and for three weeks following the last dose. Verzenio may cause fetal harm based on results from nonhuman studies. There are no well-controlled studies on pregnant people, but people who are pregnant or who become pregnant while taking Verzenio should be aware of the potential hazard to the fetus and should promptly discontinue it.
  • Breastfeeding: It is not known whether Verzenio is present in human milk. Because many drugs are expelled into human milk and because of the potential for serious negative reactions in a nursing infant, breastfeeding individuals should stop nursing during their treatment with Verzenio and for three weeks after the last dose.
  • Adults over age 65: Based on clinical studies, no overall differences in safety or effectiveness were found between adults over 65 years and adults under 65. However, some adults over 65 may be more sensitive to Verzenio than others.
  • Children: The safety and effectiveness of Verzenio have not been established in pediatric people. Consult with a healthcare provider to find alternative treatment options, if needed.

Missed Dose

If a dose of Verzenio is missed, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Verzenio?

There is limited information available about Verzenio overdose.

Treatment of overdose with Verzenio consists of general supportive measures, including monitoring of vital signs, as well as observation of the clinical status of the person.

What Happens If I Overdose on Verzenio?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Verzenio, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Verzenio, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. If you are a woman who can bear children, your doctor may give you a pregnancy test before you start using this medicine to make sure you are not pregnant. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant during treatment with this medicine and for at least 3 weeks after your last dose. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.

If you plan to have children, talk with your doctor before using this medicine. Some men using this medicine have become infertile (unable to have children).

This medicine may cause diarrhea, which may be severe and lead to dehydration or infections. You may take antidiarrheal medicines (eg, loperamide) if you start to have loose stools. Check with your doctor right away for additional instructions.

Abemaciclib can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. If you can, avoid people with infections. Check with your doctor immediately if you think you are getting an infection or if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.

This medicine may cause serious lung or breathing problems (eg, interstitial lung disease or pneumonitis), which can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Check with your doctor right away if you have chest pain, cough, difficulty with breathing, fever or chills.

Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.

This medicine may increase your risk of developing blood clots, which may be life-threatening. Check with your doctor right away if you have anxiety, chest pain, confusion, cough, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting, fast heartbeat, numbness of the hands, pain, redness, or swelling in the arm or leg, or sudden trouble breathing.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Verzenio?

Verzenio should not be taken by a pregnant or breastfeeding person.

If a person taking Verzenio has the potential to have children, birth control measures should be taken to avoid pregnancy. 

Do not begin taking Verzenio treatment if you are allergic to abemaciclib, or any of the other ingredients in Verzenio.

Additionally, people who have a history of chronic lung disease (CLD) should consult with their healthcare provider before use as severe pneumonitis and interstitial lung disease (ILD) has been reported in people treated with Verzenio.

For people with preexisting liver disease, dose adjustments may be necessary as inflammation of the liver has been reported in patients people with Verzenio in clinical trials.

The use of Verzenio in people with a thromboembolic disease (a blood clot of the veins) should be approached with caution as venous thromboembolic events (VTE), including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that impacts the lungs), have been reported in people treated with Verzenio per clinical studies.

What Other Medications Interact With Verzenio?

There are some medications that should not be taken along with Verzenio.

Do not take Verzenio with the following medications:

Please note that this is not a complete list of medications that interact with Vezenio.

What Medications Are Similar?

There are two other medications that are in the same class as Verzenio. These medications are Ibrance (palbociclib) and Kisqali (ribociclib).

Ibrance and Kisqali have also been used in combination with endocrine (hormone) medications.

However, both of these medications are different from Verzenio in that they have a treatment break every few weeks, unlike Verzenio which does not. 

These medications are not to be used together. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any other medicines you take or plan to take, including over-the-counter (OTC), nonprescription products, vitamins, herbs, or plant-based medicines.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Verzenio used for?

    Verzenio is used to treat HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer. It can be used after surgery along with an aromatase inhibitor medication to reduce the risk of cancer coming back.

    It can also be used when breast cancer is metastatic and has spread to other areas of the body. 

  • How does Verzenio work?

    Verzenio works by blocking the CDK4 and CKD6 proteins in the cancer cells. These proteins signal the cancer cells to grow.

  • What are the side effects of Verzenio?

    Side effects of Verzenio include:

    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Headache
    • Feeling tired
    • Decreased blood counts
  • What type of drug is Verzenio?

    The primary ingredient found in Verzenio, abemaciclib, is in a class of medications called kinase inhibitors.

  • How do kinase inhibitors work?

    Kinase inhibitors block kinase, a type of enzyme. Human cells have different kinases, which control bodily functions, such as cell signaling and division.

    Kinases can be more active in some types of cancer cells, so blocking them helps to keep cancer cells from spreading.

    Kinase inhibitors may also disrupt the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Therefore, kinase inhibitors can be used to treat cancer.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Verzenio?

When taking Verzenio, it is so important to take it as prescribed by your healthcare provider. This can help to ensure the medication has the opportunity to treat cancer.

If you experience any severe or bothersome side effects from taking it, be sure to talk to your cancer care team.

These individuals can be helpful in giving suggestions to manage side effects to ensure the best possible treatment and outcome for you. 

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Pfizer. Ibrance- palbociclib tablet, film coated prescribing information.

  6. Novartis. Kisqali (ribociclib) prescribing information.

  7. Petrelli F, Ghidini A, Pedersini R, et al. Comparative efficacy of palbociclib, ribociclib and abemaciclib for ER+ metastatic breast cancer: an adjusted indirect analysis of randomized controlled trialsBreast Cancer Res Treat. 2019;174(3):597-604. doi:10.1007/s10549-019-05133-y

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By Julie Scott, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP
Julie is an Adult Nurse Practitioner with oncology certification and a healthcare freelance writer with an interest in educating patients and the healthcare community.