Altretamine | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

altretamine, Oral capsule

All Brands

  • Hexalen
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Highlights for altretamine

Oral capsule
1

Altretamine is used for the palliative treatment of people with ovarian cancer. Palliative treatment helps relieve symptoms of a disease and improve quality of life.

2

Altretamine comes in the form of a capsule you take by mouth.

3

Altretamine is available as the brand-name drug Hexalen. It’s not available as a generic drug.

4

The more common side effects of this drug include nausea and vomiting, tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, and low blood cell levels.

5

In some cases, altretamine can cause serious side effects. These can include very low blood cell counts and damage to your nervous system.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a black box warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Administration warning. This drug must only be prescribed by doctors with experience giving chemotherapy.

Low blood cell count warning. This drug can severely weaken your bone marrow function. Your bone marrow makes blood cells, so this effect can reduce your blood cell count. These blood cells include:

  • red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout your body
  • white blood cells, which help fight off infections
  • platelets, which help the blood to clot

Call your doctor right away if you have any signs of infection. These can include unexpected bleeding or bruising, blood in your urine or stools, extreme tiredness, or fever. If your blood cell counts are too low, your doctor may decrease your dosage or stop your treatment with this drug completely.

Nervous system damage warning. This drug can damage your nervous system. Call your doctor if you experience mood disorders, dizziness, or problems with coordination. Also call your doctor if you have symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. These can include pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet.

Drug features

This drug is a prescription drug. It comes in the form of a capsule you take by mouth.

This drug is available as the brand-name drug Hexalen. It’s not available as a generic drug.

This drug may be used as part of a combination therapy. This means you may need to take it with other medications.

Why it's used

This drug is used as palliative treatment for people with ovarian cancer that is long-lasting or has come back. Palliative treatment helps relieve symptoms of a disease and improve quality of life.

How it works

This drug belongs to a class of drugs called alkylating agents. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

See Details

How it works

This drug belongs to a class of drugs called alkylating agents. A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.

How this drug works isn’t fully understood. It’s thought that this drug damages DNA, which is material that cancer cells need to grow and multiply.

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altretamine Side Effects

Oral capsule

More common side effects

The more common side effects of altretamine can include:

  • nausea and vomiting

  • numbness or tingling ij your hands or feet

  • low blood cell levels, with symptoms such as:

    • fever
    • tiredness
    • unusual bleeding

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 9-1-1 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Low white blood cell levels. This could lead to infections, with symptoms that can include:

    • fever
    • cough
    • body aches
    • tiredness
  • Low platelet levels. Symptoms can include:

    • bleeding
    • bruising
  • Low red blood cell levels. This is called anemia, and symptoms can include:

    • tiredness
    • pale skin
    • shortness of breath
  • Damage to your nervous system. Symptoms can include:

    • mood disorders
    • dizziness
    • problems with coordination
    • peripheral neuropathy, which can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

This drug can cause drowsiness. It can also cause nausea and vomiting, especially when you first start taking this drug.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
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altretamine May Interact with Other Medications

Oral capsule

Altretamine can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.

To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Medications that might interact with this drug

Drugs you should not use with altretamine

Do not take these drugs with altretamine. Using these drugs with altretamine can cause dangerous effects in your body. Examples of these drugs include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as isocarboxazid, phenelzine, selegiline, or tranylcypromine
    • When used with altretamine, these drugs can cause dangerously low blood pressure.
  • Cimetidine
    • Cimetidine can increase how long altretamine stays in your body. This raises your risk of side effects from altretamine.  

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Drug warnings
blood disorder warning
People with low blood counts or blood disorders

These include low levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. This drug can make your blood disorders or blood cell counts worse.

neurologic problem warning
People with severe neurologic problems

This drug can worsen problems such as mood disorders, dizziness, or problems with coordination. It can also worsen peripheral neuropathy, which has symptoms such as pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet. Before you start taking this drug, tell your doctor if you have any of these problems.

pregnancy warning
Pregnant women

This drug is a category D pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Research in humans has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. This drug should only be used during pregnancy in serious cases where it's needed to treat a dangerous condition in the mother.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Ask your doctor to tell you about the specific harm that may be done to the fetus. This drug should be only used if the potential risk to the fetus is acceptable given the drug’s potential benefit.

breast feeding warning
Women who are breast-feeding

This drug may pass into breast milk and cause side effects in a child who is breastfed.

Talk to your doctor about breastfeeding your child. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this medication.

senior warning
For seniors

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

childrens warning
For children

This medication has not been studied in children. It should not be used in people younger than 18 years.

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When to call the doctor

Call your doctor right away if you become pregnant while taking this drug.

Allergies

This drug can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your throat or tongue

If you have an allergic reaction, call your doctor or local poison control center right away. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

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How to Take altretamine (Dosage)

Oral capsule

All possible dosages and drug forms may not be included here. Your dosage, drug form, and how often you take the drug will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What are you taking this medication for?

Palliative treatment of ovarian cancer

Brand: Hexalen

Form: oral capsule
Strengths: 50 mg
Adult dosage (ages 18–64 years)

Your doctor will decide your dosage based on the surface area of your body.

Child dosage (ages 0–17 years)

This medication has not been studied in children. It should not be used in people younger than 18 years of age.

Senior dosage (ages 65 years and older)

The kidneys of older adults may not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs more slowly. As a result, more of a drug stays in your body for a longer time. This raises your risk of side effects.

Your doctor may start you on a lowered dose or a different dosing schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug from building up too much in your body.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

This drug comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you stop taking the drug suddenly or don’t take it at all

Your cancer symptoms may get worse.

If you miss doses or don’t take the drug on schedule

Your medication may not work as well or may stop working completely. For this drug to work well, a certain amount needs to be in your body at all times.

If you take too much

You could have dangerous levels of the drug in your body. Symptoms of an overdose of this drug can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • peripheral neuropathy, with symptoms such as tingling in your arms or legs

If you think you’ve taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center. If your symptoms are severe, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room right away.

What to do if you miss a dose

Take your dose as soon as you remember. If you remember just a few hours before your next scheduled dose, take only one dose. Never try to catch up by taking two doses at once. This could result in dangerous side effects.

How to tell if the drug is working

Your cancer symptoms should improve.

This drug is used for short-term treatment.

You’ll take this drug with and without food

For three of your four daily doses, you should take this drug right after a meal.

Take your total daily dose as four divided doses

Take a divided dose after each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and at bedtime.

For the first cycle, you’ll take this drug for 28 days in a row. If your doctor prescribes another cycle, you may take the drug for 14 or 21 days.

Store this drug carefully

  • Store this drug at room temperature between 59°F and 86°F (15°C and 30°C).
  • Keep this medication away from light.
  • Don’t store this medication in moist or damp areas, such as bathrooms.

A prescription for this medication is refillable

You should not need a new prescription for this medication to be refilled. Your doctor will write the number of refills authorized on your prescription.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry your medication with you. When flying, never put it into a checked bag. Keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport x-ray machines. They can’t hurt your medication.
  • You may need to show airport staff the pharmacy label for your medication. Always carry the original prescription-labeled box with you.
  • Don’t put this medication in your car’s glove compartment or leave it in the car. Be sure to avoid doing this when the weather is very hot or very cold.

Self-management

Do not crush, chew, or open the capsules. Swallow them whole.

Clinical monitoring

Your doctor will monitor you while you receive this drug. They may do two tests:

  • Complete blood count. Your doctor may use this test to check if you have healthy levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your blood. If you don’t, your doctor may reduce your dosage or delay or stop your treatment with this drug.
  • Neurological exam. Your doctor may use this test to check if this drug is causing any nerve damage. They will check your muscle strength and reflexes. Your doctor will also check for any new symptoms you may have developed while taking this drug.

Your doctor may also watch you for stomach upset, such as nausea and vomiting. If you have severe stomach upset, your doctor may stop your treatment for a time.

Insurance

Many insurance companies require a prior authorization for this drug. This means your doctor may need to get approval from your insurance company before your insurance company will pay for the prescription.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other drugs available to treat your condition. Some may be better suited for you than others. Talk to your doctor about other drug options that may work for you.

What does the pill look like?

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Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on February 21, 2016

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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