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What is Erbitux&Reg;?

Article Details
  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 17 February 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Erbitux® is the product name for cetuximab, an injection that is administered to cancer patients. It is primarily used for head, neck, colon, and rectum cancer. The drug works by impeding cancer cell growth and delaying the spread of cancer throughout the body.

The drug is typically administered once a week in a medical facility. It is injected slowly via an intravenous process called infusion. A treatment can take as long as two hours to complete.

As Erbitux® can cause serious immediate side effects, most patients are observed carefully for reaction to the drug both during and for at least an hour after the injection. Patients receiving the drug should report to a doctor any unusual side effects, particularly difficulty breathing, hives, dizziness, chest pain or pressure, blurred vision, and nausea. If these symptoms appear, the injection will need to be stopped immediately so that treatment can be administered to treat the patient. If any of these side effects occur during an injection, Erbitux® will not be administered to the patient again.

In order to gauge the effect of Erbitux®, patients will typically have regular blood tests. These tests can be continued for many weeks after use of the drug has been discontinued. The prescribing doctor may also wish to run kidney and liver tests to ensure that Erbitux® is not causing organ damage.

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Erbitux® injections can increase a patient’s sensitivity to the sun. It is best for individuals receiving the injections to try to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight. If this is not possible, a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and protective clothing are typically recommended to patients on the drug.

Common side effects of Erbitux® include skin conditions such as drying, cracking, and a rash that looks similar to acne. Patients may also have discomfort in the eyes, which can become itchy, watery, red, or sensitive to light. There may be burning or pain in the eyes or red and swollen eyelids. Some patients experience a mouth sores or a dry mouth and have problems swallowing. There are several other possible mild effects and any of these or other unusual symptoms that arise during Erbitux® therapy should be reported if they are severe or do not go away.

The more severe side effects of Erbitux® should be reported immediately to a medical professional. They can include swelling of the extremities, a dry cough that may produce blood, difficulty breathing, and muscle cramps. Some patients may also experience uncontrollable shaking of the hands, fainting, confusion, and a fast heartbeat.

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