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Gleevec FAQs

Q: What is Gleevec?

A: Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) is a prescription medicine used to treat certain types of cancer -- including Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) and Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST). Gleevec works by preventing and stopping the growth of cancer cells. Gleevec is manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001.

Q: What is Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)?

A: CML is a disease in which the body makes too many abnormal white blood cells. As a result, a person can become sick more often, and feel weak and tired. Gleevec helps the body stop making these abnormal white blood cells.

Q: What is a Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor (GIST)?

A: GIST is a group of cancer cells that start growing in the wall of the stomach, intestines, or rectum. Gleevec also helps the body stop making these abnormal cells.

Q: Has there been any recent news about Gleevec?

A: Nature Medicine reported in August 2006 that a study of ten CML patients treated with Gleevec developed congestive heart failure after one to fourteen months. Other studies have shown that Gleevec keeps CML patients cancer free for at least five years. Because the overall survival rate of most CML patients treated with Gleevec is extremely high and because the cancer relapse rate, as well as the number of reported heart failures, is low, many say that the benefits of Gleevec outweigh its risks.

Q: Who should not use Gleevec?

A: Women should avoid becoming pregnant while being treated with Gleevec. Also, Gleevec can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the change of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. Talk to your healthcare professional about steps you can talk to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding.

Q: What should I tell my healthcare professional before he or she prescribes Gleevec?

A: You should tell your healthcare professional if you have or had any unusual allergic reaction to Gleevec; if you are allergic to any other substances (foods, preservatives, or dyes); are or may be pregnant, are planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding; have anemia, platelet problems, or white blood cell problems; have chickenpox (including recent exposure) or herpes zoster (shingles); have liver disease; have an infection; or if you or anyone to whom you might be exposed has recently had or plans to have any immunizations (vaccinations).

Q: What are the side effects associated with Gleevec?

A: Common side effects associated with Gleevec use include nausea, vomiting, fluid retention, muscle cramps, skin rash, diarrhea, heartburn, and headache. Serious side effects are uncommon, but include severe fluid retention (edema), liver problems, and potential for bleeding (hemorrhage), especially in the elderly. Tell your healthcare professional if you experience swelling or weight gain from water retention.

Q: Are there any interactions between Gleevec and other drugs or foods?

A: Gleevec and certain other medicines can interact with each other. Tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take - including prescription and non-prescription medicines

Q: What should I do if I think I have been injured as a result of using Gleevec?

A: If you or a loved one has experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions while taking Gleevec, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. Once you've received medical treatment, you should consider consulting with a product liability attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Gleevec use.

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