Amifostine (Generic Name) 

Other Names: Ethyol®, WR-2721

About This Drug

Amifostine helps protect certain body cells from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This drug is given in your vein (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting).  These symptoms may happen within a few hours after your treatment and may last up to 48-72 hours.  Medicines are available to stop or lessen these side effects.
  • Low blood pressure. To get this drug by IV, you will lie down, and your blood pressure will be checked often. You may feel dizzy or sleepy.  
  • A warm or flushed feeling that may happen near the end of your IV treatment
  • Sneezing
  • Hiccups
  • Metallic taste in your mouth

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Low calcium level in your blood
  • Metallic taste in your mouth
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Rash

Treating Side Effects

Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen nausea and throwing up. 

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 throw up or have loose bowel movements you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body due to losing too much fluid).

If you are dizzy get up slowly after sitting or lying down.

Infusion Reactions

While you are getting this drug in your vein (IV), you may have a reaction to the drug.  Your nurse will check you closely for these signs: fever or shaking chills, flushing, facial swelling, feeling dizzy, headache, trouble breathing, rash, itching, chest tightness, or chest pain.   

Allergic Reactions

Serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, are rare.  While you are getting this drug in your vein  (IV), tell your nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
  • Feeling that your heart is not beating normal or a feeling that it is beating too fast (palpitations)
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Flushing, itching, rash, and/or hives

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of amifostine 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.

When to Call the Doctor

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

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Bleeding or bruising that is not normal
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Rash or itching
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling that your heart is not beating normal or a feeling that it is beating too fast (palpitations)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with feeling weak or lightheaded
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Pain when passing urine or blood in urine
  • Pain in your lower back or side
  • Confusion or agitation
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than three times a day
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. The pain may go away and come back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes pain is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Symptoms of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, mostly on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, bad headache with no known cause.  If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911. 
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if any of these symptoms happen:

  • Change in hearing or ringing in the ears
  • Decreased urine
  • Unusual thirst or passing urine often
  • Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
  • Nausea not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Heavy menstrual period that lasts longer than normal
  • Numbness, tingling, decreased feeling or weakness in fingers, toes, arms, or legs
  • Trouble walking or changes in the way you walk, clumsiness in buttoning clothes, opening jars, or other routine hand motions
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week (fluid retention)
  • Loss of appetite that lasts long or rapid weight loss of 5 pounds in one week
  • Fatigue that interferes with normal activities
  • Headache that does not go away
  • Painful, red, or swollen areas on your hands or feet
  • No bowel movement for 3 days, or if you feel uncomfortable
  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities 

Reproduction Concerns

Pregnancy warning: It is not known if this drug may harm an unborn child.  For this reason, be sure to talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while getting this drug.

Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

Infertility

Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may happen. In men and women both, this drug may affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.

In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations.  

In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are getting this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.

Women may go through signs of menopause (change of life) like vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.


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 if an exposure happens during pregnancy.

Revised: June 2014

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