Leucovorin is a folic acid complex administered to patients as part of some chemotherapy regimens and also in cases of severe deficiency. It is water soluble and active, not requiring metabolism by the body and instead taking effect immediately. Patients may be given injectable solutions or tablets and take the medication at regular intervals to keep levels in the body appropriately balanced. When the medication is no longer needed, it can be discontinued.
One use of this medication is in patients being treated for cancer with methotrexate. This chemotherapy agent is very toxic, and leucovorin can help protect bone marrow and other cells from the ravages of chemotherapy, making the patient feel more comfortable and reducing the risks of severe complications. This drug can also be used in combination therapy with other chemotherapy medications, as it can bind to them and make them more efficient or more long-acting, creating a lower dosage need and fewer side effects.
People with a folic acid deficiency can also be given leucovorin in some cases, depending on the cause of the deficiency. It can quickly correct the problem, but in the long term, the patient will need to make diet and lifestyle adjustments to address the deficiency and prevent it from happening again. This medication is not intended for use as a folic acid supplement in people who wish to ensure that they are getting an appropriate amount, such as pregnant women concerned about fetal nutrition.
A prescription is needed for leucovorin, as it is usually paired with aggressive medications and doctors want to make sure it is used appropriately. Most patients tolerate this medication very well and experience few side effects. Sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms develop and a patient may experience discomfort. More commonly, side effects are caused by other medications the patient is taking with the leucovorin, and a doctor will go over the potential side effects associated with various medications.
When a doctor recommends this medication for use at home, patients should make sure to take it at the prescribed dosage intervals. They should remain alert to side effects that may be indicative of complications associated with underlying medical conditions or other medications, including things like fainting, extreme fatigue or pain, changes in urine production or the stools, and so forth. Patients on chemotherapy are among the most likely to use leucovorin and they also need to be alert to the early warning signs of infections, as their immune systems are less robust.