Gefitinib (Generic Name)

Other Names: IRESSA®

About this drug

Gefitinib is used to treat cancer. It is given by mouth (orally).

Possible side effects

  • Skin problems. You may develop a rash, dry skin, itching, or acne.
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in the tissues of your lungs. You may have an increase in your breathing problems or cough.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye pain or trouble seeing
  • Fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Effects on an unborn child. This drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child. Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment. Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effect of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. If it turns out that you are pregnant or become pregnant, talk with a genetic counselor. He or she can review the potential risks to the fetus.

Treating side effects

  • Take your temperature as directed by your nurse and whenever you feel warm (feverish). Report a temperature of 100.5 F (38.0 C) or above immediately.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain, itching, or acne.
  • If you vomit or have diarrhea, you are at risk for dehydration. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids, unless your doctor has told you to watch your fluid intake because of another medical condition.
  • Do not put anything on a rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.

Food and drug interactions

There are no known interactions of gefitinib with food. This drug may interact with other medicine. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines 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.  

When to call the doctor

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

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Increased trouble breathing or cough
  • Lightheadedness
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than 3 times in 1 day


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

  • Nausea, vomiting, or itching not helped by pain medicine
  • Persistent loss of appetite or rapid weight loss (more than 5 pounds in 1 week)
  • Diarrhea of 5 or 6 loose stools in 1 day or diarrhea with weakness
  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities
  • Stomach pain 

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