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Precautions and Warnings With Erlotinib

Specific Erlotinib Precautions and Warnings

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to taking this medication include the following:
 
  • Erlotinib can cause life-threatening lung inflammation (known medically as pneumonitis). People with lung disease or people who have had previous chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be at an increased risk for this side effect. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience shortness of breath, cough, and fever while taking erlotinib, as these could be signs of pneumonitis.
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  • Erlotinib has been reported to cause kidney failure, especially in people who are dehydrated, which can occur if you do not drink enough fluids or have severe vomiting and diarrhea. Your healthcare provider may choose to monitor your kidney function closely if you have a risk for kidney failure during erlotinib treatment.
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  • This medication may cause liver failure, especially in people who already have underlying liver problems. Your healthcare provider will monitor your liver function with a blood test periodically during treatment. If your liver function worsens, your healthcare provider may lower your erlotinib dose or stop treatment. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience signs of liver disease, such as:
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    • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
    • Fatigue
    • Pain in the right side of the stomach
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Dark urine.
     
  • Some people taking erlotinib have developed a hole in their stomach or intestines. This is known as a GI perforation, and can be life-threatening. People who take certain medications or who have had a GI ulcer or diverticulitis may have an increased risk for this complication.
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  • Many people who take erlotinib experience skin reactions, which can include:
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    • A rash that may look like acne
    • Redness
    • Dryness
    • Itching
    • Burning. 
Skin reactions are most likely to occur on the face, upper chest, and back, but can happen anywhere. To help reduce your risk for skin rash, avoid using skin products that dry your skin, and limit your time in the sun. Use sunscreen and protective clothing when you are outside. Also, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage a rash if one were to occur.
  • You should know that potentially life-threatening skin rashes may also occur. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any skin reaction while taking this medication, including any rash, blistering, peeling, or tenderness.
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  • There have been rare reports of heart attacks and strokes in people taking erlotinib.
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  • Erlotinib has been reported to cause damage to the cornea (the clear part of the eye over the iris), which could lead to vision loss. Other eye problems have also occurred, including dry eyes, abnormal eyelash growth, and changes in vision. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience eye pain or other eye symptoms during treatment.
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  • Erlotinib may cause anemia (low red blood cell counts), as well as low platelet counts. Because platelets help the blood to clot, low platelet counts can increase the risk for bleeding. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any abnormal bleeding or bruising while taking this medicine.
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  • Your blood levels of erlotinib may be lower than expected if you smoke cigarettes. Tell your healthcare provider if you use tobacco products.
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  • Erlotinib can react with a number of other medications (see Drug Interactions With Erlotinib).
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  • This product is considered a pregnancy Category D medication. This means it can harm an unborn baby. Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using this medication when pregnant (see Tarceva and Pregnancy).
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  • It is not known if erlotinib passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to taking the drug (see Tarceva and Breastfeeding).
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Erlotinib Medication Information

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