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What is Aprepitant?

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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Aprepitant is a preventative medication prescribed to keep an individual from suffering from vomiting and nausea. It is most commonly given to those who are undergoing forms of chemotherapy and cancer treatments that are known to have these side effects. This condition is known as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), and many patients suffer from this at some time during treatment. The preventative medication is taken orally and comes in pink and white capsules.

Typically, when used to treat chemotherapy patients, aprepitant is paired with other medications and given in advance of the chemo treatment. It does not work to control symptoms that the patient already has, so it is vitally important that it be in the person's system before chemotherapy is administered. Aprepitant capsules are generally given about an hour before chemotherapy, and the individual will continue to take them for several days afterward. When taken alone, this medication can also be effective in controlling the same symptoms that occur after surgery.

The medication acts on the chemicals in the brain that cause feelings of nausea. In turn, it also controls the vomiting that can follow these feelings. Other medications designed to stop CINV act on the stomach, but as chemotherapy can also impact the chemical balance in the brain that tells the stomach it feels sick, a patient still may feel ill.

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Aprepitant acts in the brain as well, and it stops the chemical signals that make the stomach feel sick. Chemotherapy impacts individuals in different ways, but nausea and vomiting are common side effects, and in some cases can be so severe that more than one type of medication is required in order to keep reactions under control. These side effects can occur up to five days after chemotherapy is administered, so medical professionals will often recommend individuals continue to take aprepitant.

Falling into the class of medications known as antiemetics, aprepitant comes in several different dosing strengths. A medical professional will prescribe the correct strength based on an individual's weight, other medications or vitamins he may be taking, his overall health condition, and what it is intended to treat; over the course of the treatment, an individual may be instructed to take capsules of different strengths. It should not be taken when symptoms are already present, and if symptoms still develop after it is taken, a medical professional should be informed.

Side effects are typically mild and disappear relatively quickly. Some individuals may experience other gastrointestinal distress, such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, or a loss of appetite. There may also be headaches, fever, fatigue and dizziness associated with the medication.

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