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Alimta (pemetrexed) is a chemotherapy agent used to treat or maintain non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or malignant mesothelioma. It is often used with or following treatment with another chemotherapy medication called cisplatin. It is not suitable for patients who have squamous cell cancer.
Note that this product is a fluid for IV infusion. Ideal storage temperature is 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Fluid, vials, and materials that come into contact with the fluid should be handled with care and disposed of properly.
Getting the Most from Alimta
Use of this product will be determined by a doctor, who can take into account the numerous variables that influence dosage and duration of treatment. Cancer and its treatment is a complicated topic that is very difficult to summarize to a helpful degree.
Alimta is usually used to treat non-squamous NSCLC, in one of three scenarios:
In treating malignant mesothelioma, Alimta is used:
Regardless of the scenario in which Alimta is being used, the medication is given on the first day of 21-day cycles. It is administered intravenously over 10 minutes. If cisplatin is also being administered, Alimta will be administered first.
Alimta is usually administered for six cycles or until the disease progresses. Dosage can be quite variable and should be determined by a doctor; patient health and response will be taken into consideration. It's possible the medication will prove too toxic for an individual, which may call for modified treatment or the end of treatment with Alimta.
Folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation will help minimize side effects for many patients. Supplementation will usually begin one week prior to the first treatment, continue throughout, and for 21 days after the last treatment. Patients may also be given a steroid the day before, the day of, and the day after treatment with Alimta.
Other medications can also help alleviate side effects if they become severe; however, many medications can produce equally unpleasant interactions with Alimta. Always check with a doctor before taking any other medication, including over-the-counter NSAIDs and supplements.
Precautions & Side Effects
As a chemotherapy agent this is a very potent medication which will produce side effects, though they're not as severe as those experienced with many other chemotherapies. Most commonly reported are tiredness, nausea, and loss of appetite. Side effects are more complicated when cisplatin is also being taken.
About 10 to 30 percent of patients experience:
A doctor should be consulted if experiencing more rare, but more serious, symptoms:
Both men and women should avoid conceiving a child while taking Alimta. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be aware that this medication can cause fetal harm or death. Both genders may find fertility is impaired following treatment, and it's not known if this is reversible.
Self-care is important during treatment with Alimta or any chemotherapy agent. Cancer is a distressing illness and even without medication patients may find themselves with symptoms of depression and fatigue.
Be sure to stay hydrated. Hydration is important for the body and the mind to function correctly. However, limit or avoid alcohol, which is actually dehydrating.
Get enough rest. The body heals best when sleeping. Sleep is also important for mood and mental function.
Avoid activities that can cause injury; this ranges from using electric razors and soft toothbrushes to avoiding contact sports or other potentially dangerous activities.
Don't be afraid to contact your doctor with any questions or concerns, no matter how trivial they may seem. Remember that there are other medications and techniques that can help significantly with alleviating side effects from Alimta. Don't be afraid to ask about them or use them.