What is Elspar&Reg;?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Elspar® is a brand name of the generic medication asparaginase that is often used to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia. It is a cytotoxic, or anti-cancer, chemotherapy drug. This drug works by depriving the cancer cells of asparagine, which is a chemical that is necessary for the survival of all cells. Normal, healthy cells can manufacture this chemical on their own. When Elspar® is introduced to cancer cells, they die as it breaks down the asparagine into ammonia and aspartic acid.

Elspar, a chemotherapy medication, is typically administered through an intravenous line.
Elspar, a chemotherapy medication, is typically administered through an intravenous line.

Patients receive Elspar® via an intramuscular injection or into a vein with intravenous infusion. A health care professional will administer the drug. While undergoing chemotherapy, patients will be monitored regularly through blood tests. Regular monitoring ensures the general safety of the patient and evaluates the response to the therapy.

As with all chemotherapy medications, Elspar® has the potential for serious side effects. Neurological side effects typically result from the elevated levels of aspartic acid and ammonia, caused by the destruction of asparagine. Patients may notice disorientation, confusion, and agitation. Excessive sleepiness and coma have also been reported.

Common side effects of taking Elspar® can include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Headache, depression, and restlessness may occur. Patients should inform their doctor if they experience severe or persistent fever and dizziness. Certain side effects must be reported to the physician immediately. These include frequent or difficult urination, constant thirst, and sore throat. Some patients may notice jaundice, stomach pain, and swelling of the ankles or feet. Unusual bleeding or bruising can occur.

Not all cancer patients may be able to use Elspar®. The doctor may not prescribe this medication for patients who have shingles, gout, or type two diabetes. Chicken pox and pancreatitis may also preclude one from using it. Patients should inform their doctor if they have ever had kidney stones or if they have recently had an infection. In addition, Elspar® may harm an unborn or breastfeeding baby.

Patients should follow self-care guidelines recommended by their doctors while undergoing chemotherapy. They must consume plenty of fluids to reduce the risk of kidney complications. Elspar® increases the risk of infection, so patients should avoid close contact with sick people and crowds. Patients should not receive vaccinations, unless the prescribing doctor approves them. Resting frequently is also important.

Alcohol should be avoided. Patients should discuss nutrition with their doctors. In general, cancer patients are advised to eat small, frequent meals. Those who suffer from nausea and vomiting may request anti-nausea medications.

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