Abiraterone acetate (Generic Name)

Other Names: Zytiga®

About This Drug

Abiraterone is used to treat patients with certain types of prostate cancer. It is given by mouth (orally).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Low potassium level
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
  • Swelling
  • Increase in liver function tests (AST, ALT, bilirubin)
  • Hot flashes
  • Muscle and/or joint aches

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Cough
  • High blood pressure
  • Infection (most often urinary tract or respiratory)
  • Irregular heart beat 

Reproduction Concerns

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug should not be used in women but there is a risk of harmful effects on an unborn baby. Because of this, effective methods of birth control should be used by both men and women when getting this drug as part of your cancer treatment.  Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine in case of an exposure during pregnancy.
  • Breast feeding warning: Women should not take this drug therefore it is not known whether the drug can be passed to an infant through the breast milk. 

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids each day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem.  A cup is 8 ounces of fluid.  If you have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluid so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).  Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen the loose bowel movements.
  • Your doctor will check your liver function and potassium level while you are taking this medicine.  The dose of abiraterone may need to be changed based on your lab test results.
  • Your heart tissue can be harmed by this drug.  This may cause your heart to beat in a way that is not normal.  Your doctor may order an EKG to check this.

Important Information

  • Take this drug on an empty stomach, at least two hours before eating or one hour after eating. 
  • Take the tablet with water and swallow it whole.  Do not break, crush or chew the tablet. 
  • The prednisone that is given with the abiraterone should be taken with food.  Therefore these drugs should not be taken together.
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose of abiraterone and/or prednisone, just take your usual dose the next day.  If you miss more than one dose, tell your doctor right away.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of abiraterone with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's help. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this medicine.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeatLoose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or feeling lightheaded
  • Extreme fatigue

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if any of the following symptoms occur:

  • Cough 
  • Irregular heart beat 
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, or feet

Revised August 2014

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