Medical Services Patients & Visitors Health Information For Medical Professionals Quality About Us
Text Size:  -   +  |  Print Page  |  Email Page

Irinotecan (Injection)

Irinotecan (ir-in-oh-TEE-kan)

Used together with other medicines to treat cancer of the colon or rectum.

Brand Name(s):

Amerinet Choice Irinotecan Hydrochloride, Camptosar, Novaplus Camptosar

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

You should not receive this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to irinotecan, or if you are pregnant. Do not take St. John's wort or ketoconazole (Nizoral®) while you are receiving this medicine.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
  • You will receive this medicine while you are in a hospital or cancer treatment center. A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
  • Your doctor will prescribe your dose and schedule. This medicine is given through a needle placed in a vein.
  • Irinotecan is given slowly, so the IV will need to be left in place for about 90 minutes. You may also be given other cancer medicines and medicines to help prevent nausea and vomiting. Tell your doctor right away if any of this medicine gets on your skin or in your eyes, nose, or mouth.

If a dose is missed:

  • This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose, call your doctor, home health caregiver, or treatment clinic for instructions.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Do not take St. John's wort or ketoconazole (Nizoral®) while you are receiving this medicine. If you are using St. John's Wort, it should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before the first cycle of irinotecan. If you are using ketoconazole, it should be discontinued at least 1 week before starting irinotecan treatment.
  • Make sure your doctor knows about all other medicines you are using, especially laxatives, diuretics or "water pills", medicines to treat seizures (such as carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, Dilantin®, or Tegretol®), atazanavir (Reyataz®), rifabutin (Mycobutin®), or rifampin (Rifadin®, Rimactane®). Tell your doctor if you have been treated with radiation or other cancer medicines.
  • This medicine may interfere with vaccines. Ask your doctor before you get a flu shot or any other vaccines.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, bleeding problems, blocked bowels, diabetes, Gilbert's syndrome (an inherited disorder), lung problems, severe bone marrow disease, low white blood cells, any type of infection, or a condition called hereditary fructose intolerance.
  • This medicine often causes diarrhea. Early diarrhea happens while you are getting a dose of medicine or shortly after the dose. You may also feel warm or have a runny nose, watery eyes, or stomach cramps. Tell your doctor or nurse if this happens.
  • You may have late diarrhea more than 24 hours after you get a dose of this medicine. Call your doctor if this happens, especially if you have more than 7 bowel movements in one day. Ask your doctor about using any medicine to treat the diarrhea.
  • This medicine may increase your risk of having blood clots. Tell your doctor right away if you start having sudden and severe headache, trouble with breathing, or problems with vision, speech, or walking.
  • This medicine may make you dizzy and may cause vision problems. Avoid doing anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert or not able to see well.
  • This medicine may cause a serious type of allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have chills; fever; hives; hoarseness; itching; rash; trouble breathing; trouble swallowing; or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after you receive the medicine.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have an unexplained fever, cough, shortness of breath, trouble with breathing, or wheezing after receiving this medicine. These may be symptoms of a serious lung problem.
  • This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. Avoid people who are ill, and wash your hands often. Brush and floss your teeth gently, do not play rough sports, and be careful with sharp objects.
  • Cancer medicines can cause nausea and/or vomiting in most people, sometimes even after receiving medicines to prevent it. Ask your doctor or nurse about other ways to control these side effects.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments. Your doctor will need to know if you have an enzyme problem called reduced UGT1A1 activity before you start treatment with this medicine.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, or coughing up blood.
  • Decrease in how much or how often you urinate.
  • Fever, chills, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and body aches.
  • Increased hunger or thirst.
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, unusual drowsiness, or fainting.
  • Numbness or weakness in your arm or leg, or on one side of your body.
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands, arms, legs, or feet.
  • Pain in your lower leg (calf).
  • Red, black, or tarry stools.
  • Redness, pain, or swelling where the needle is placed.
  • Severe diarrhea (may be watery, bloody, or black), stomach pain, cramping, or tenderness.
  • Severe nausea or vomiting.
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Sudden or severe headache, problems with vision, speech, or walking.
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet.
  • Trouble with breathing.
  • Unusual bleeding, or bruising.
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness.
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Back pain.
  • Confusion.
  • Constipation, passing gas, upset stomach, or enlarged abdomen or stomach.
  • Hair loss.
  • Headache.
  • Increased sweating, tearing, or salivation.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Muscle twitching or cramps.
  • Skin rash.
  • Sores or white patches in your lips, mouth, or throat.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Warmth or redness in your face, neck, arms, or upper chest.
  • Weight loss.

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 7/4/2014

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.
Copyright © 1984- Truven Health Analytics. All rights reserved.

Thomson & A.D.A.M
A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.