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What Is Vemurafenib?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Vemurafenib is a prescription medication that is used to treat melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Due to possible side effects, vemurafenib is usually prescribed for use only in patients who have inoperable melanoma or if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. The most frequently reported side effects of this drug include skin rash, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and muscle or joint pain. Some patients may develop a different form of cancer, known as squamous cell carcinoma, as a result of using this drug. Any specific questions or concerns about the use of vemurafenib in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Melanoma is a potentially fatal form of skin cancer that often causes changes in the appearance of moles or other skin lesions. If diagnosed and treated early in the course of the disease, surgical removal of the lesion is often successful at curing the condition. Lesions that cannot be surgically removed may be treated with vemurafenib. This drug may also be prescribed if the cancer cells have begun to spread to other areas of the body.

As is the case with all medications, there are several potential side effects associated with the use of vemurafenib. Some patients may develop a skin rash or increased sun sensitivity when taking this drug. These side effects normally go away when the medication is discontinued, but any concerns should be discussed with a doctor. Muscle or joint pain may also occur and can range from mild to severe in nature, sometimes requiring the use of over-the-counter or prescription pain medications.

A potentially severe side effect of vemurafenib is the development of squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. Any new sores or lesions on the body should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation. When detected early, this form of skin cancer is usually easy to treat. In most cases, squamous cell carcinoma remains localized and does not spread to other areas of the body.

Additional side effects of vemurafenib may include visual disturbances, liver damage, or a disruption of the electrical current of the heart. Hair loss, nausea, and fatigue may occur in some people when taking this drug. Severe allergic reactions are also possible and require emergency medical treatment. Symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or facial swelling should be reported to a doctor immediately.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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