Ipilimumab (Generic Name)

Other Name: Yervoy®

About This Drug

Ipilimumab is a drug used to treat malignant melanoma. It is administered intravenously (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Fatigue
  • Itching and rash which may be severe.  Drugs are available to lessen these side effects.
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.  These symptoms may occur within several hours after you receive the drug and may last for several days.  Drugs are available to lessen these side effects.
  • Cough and shortness of breath.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Liver toxicity.  Frequent blood work will need to be done to monitor for this potential side effect.
  • Effects on pituitary and adrenal glands.  Frequent blood work will be needed to monitor for these potential side effects.
  • Colitis (inflammation of the colon) and enterocolitis (inflammation of the colon and small intestine) with severe diarrhea.  Report diarrhea to your doctor immediately.
  • Mouth sores
  • Inflammation of the nerves.  You may experience weakness of your legs, arms, or face or numbness or tingling in your hands and feet.

Sexual Problems and Reproduction Concerns

Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may occur. In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy.

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 receiving this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period. Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
  • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
  • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.
  • Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of regular, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after every meal and at bedtime.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Do not put anything on your rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or headache.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of ipilimumab with food. This drug may interact with other medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medication and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly 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 advice.

While you are receiving this drug by IV, tell your nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash or itching
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations)

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than three times a day
  • Rash or itching
  • Diarrhea of four stools a day or diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Black or bloody stool

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

  • Blurred vision or other changes in vision
  • Eye pain or redness
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale stools, severe stomach pain, severe tiredness or weakness, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • Weakness of your legs, arms, or face
  • Numbness or tingling in your hands and feet
  • Unusual or persistent headache
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Changes in mood or behavior such as irritability, forgetfulness or decreased sex drive
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week 

New September 2011

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