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Vinorelbine is a chemotherapy type of drug that belongs to the vinca alkaloids class of medications. A class is a grouping of medications that work similarly.

Vinca alkaloids are made from compounds of the Madagascar periwinkle plant. This class of medications is the second most commonly used type of treatment for cancer.

They work by blocking cancer cells from dividing, which stops cancer growing and spreading.

In this article we’ll review vinorelbine uses, side effects, and other important information.

What is Navelbine?

Navelbine was a brand name version of vinorelbine, a prescription medication used to treat certain types of cancer. Navelbine is no longer available for use in the United States.

Instead, what’s available is the generic medication. Generic versions of brand name medications have the same active ingredient and work the same exact way. Generally, generic medications are less expensive.

Why was Navelbine discontinued?

The manufacturer, Pierre Fabre Médicament, discontinued Navelbine. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is if the brand name medication isn’t making a manufacturer a large profit anymore.

Often, when the generic form of the drug becomes available, it is less expensive. Your healthcare professional may switch you from the brand name medication to the generic option to help you save money.

Metastatic NSCLC treatment

Vinorelbine is approved to treat metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed type of cancer worldwide (11.4 percent), after female breast cancer (11.7 percent). NSCLC is also the most common type of lung cancer.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment are based on staging the size of a cancer tumor and if it has spread. The stages range from 1 to 4. Metastatic means the cancer has spread from one location to other areas of the body or blood system.

Treatment for other types of cancer

Vinorelbine may also be used off-label to treat other types of cancer. This is when a drug is used for a purpose other than its approved uses.

Your doctor can tell you more about other types of cancer vinorelbine may be used to treat.

Vinorelbine is approved to treat metastatic NSCLC alone or in combination with other chemotherapy type medications in adults. It’s not known if vinorelbine is safe for use in children.

Vinorelbine is used:

  • as the first choice chemotherapy treatment with cisplatin (another chemotherapy medication) for cancer that’s spread locally to nearby tissues or lymph nodes or spread to other areas of the body
  • alone for metastatic NSCLC

Vinorelbine is given intravenously (IV) as an injection or infusion directly into a vein. Your dose of vinorelbine depends on:

  • if you’re given vinorelbine alone or with another drug
  • your body size
  • the type of cancer being treated
  • how well you tolerate vinorelbine treatment (for example, if you experience blood count problems or constipation)

You’ll receive your dose of vinorelbine at your doctor’s office or a clinic by a health professional. They’ll monitor you during and after your dose to make sure you don’t experience serious side effects from the injection.

How often is vinorelbine given?

Vinorelbine is typically given once a week if it’s used alone. When it’s given with another chemotherapy medication (cisplatin), the dose and schedule depend on the dose of cisplatin. Your doctor can tell you more about the dosage of vinorelbine and your treatment plan.

Your dosage of vinorelbine may be adjusted depending on how well you tolerate treatment. Your doctor may also pause or stop treatment with vinorelbine if you experience serious side effects of the drug such as low blood cell counts or other serious reactions.

You may experience side effects from vinorelbine. The drug has some common and serious side effects. Be aware that some sensations can also be due to your cancer. Your doctor will discuss possible side effects of vinorelbine before starting treatment.

Some side effects include:

Your doctor can tell you more about side effects of the medication and what you can expect. You may also experience different side effects from other cancer treatment you’re receiving with vinorelbine.

What affects side effects?

Side effects of vinorelbine can depend on:

  • your age
  • genetic factors
  • other health conditions you may have
  • if you’re receiving other cancer treatment
  • your dose of vinorelbine

If you have an allergic reaction or other adverse reaction to vinorelbine, call your doctor right away. But if it’s a medical emergency, call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately.

FDA boxed warning

Vinorelbine has a boxed warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the most serious warning about a medication.

Vinorelbine may cause serious myelosuppression (low blood cell counts), which can increase your risk for serious infections, septic shock, and lead to hospitalization, and in rare cases death.

Your doctor will monitor you for myelosuppression during your treatment with vinorelbine. If you experience myelosuppression, your doctor may lower the dose or stop vinorelbine based on recommended guidelines for the drug.

Vinorelbine may not be suitable for you if you have certain health conditions. Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions including if you’ve ever had liver problems before starting treatment with vinorelbine. Your doctor will monitor you carefully for side effects while you’re receiving vinorelbine.

In post-marketing reports of vinorelbine, blood clots and other blood vessel damage has been mentioned. If you have a history of blood clots, blood pressure problems, or other cardiovascular problems, tell your doctor. They’ll discuss the benefits and risks of treatment with vinorelbine with you.

  • Myelosuppression: Vinorelbine can cause severely low blood cell counts, including anemia, leukopenia, or thrombocytopenia. This may increase your risk for serious infections, septic shock, hospitalization, and in rare cases death. Your doctor will monitor you for signs of myelosuppression and treat you if necessary.
  • Liver damage: Vinorelbine can cause liver injury. If you have a history of liver disease, tell your doctor. They will monitor your liver function during vinorelbine treatment.
  • Extravasation: Vinorelbine injection can leak into surrounding tissues and cause irritation and tissue damage.
  • Nerve damage: Vinorelbine can cause nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Lung damage: Vinorelbine can cause serious lung damage, leading to breathing problems such as bronchospasm, inflammation of the lungs, or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Allergic reaction: Some people may have an allergic reaction to vinorelbine. This may be mild or serious.
Vinorelbine allergic reaction signs

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include rash, itching, and flushing (temporary warmth or reddening of your skin). Signs of a serious allergic reaction include difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, tongue, hands, and other areas of the body. If you’re experiencing a serious allergic reaction, get medical help immediately by calling 911 or going to an emergency medical center.

Vinorelbine is not safe to use during pregnancy because of serious side effects that can harm a fetus. If you’re female, your doctor will give you a pregnancy test before you begin treatment with vinorelbine. Your doctor will discuss risks of vinorelbine use during pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant, your doctor will discuss treatment options which may be safer for you and your unborn baby.

Recommendations for sex if you’re being given vinorelbine

If you’re female, use a barrier method of birth control (condom) for sex during vinorelbine treatment and for 6 months after the last dose.

If you’re male, use a barrier method of contraception (condom) for sex with a female partner during your treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose of vinorelbine.

We use the terms “male” and “female” to refer to a person’s sex assigned at birth.

Tell your doctor about all the medications you take, including any over the counter products. Certain types of medications can interact with vinorelbine and affect how vinorelbine works.

Some possible medication interactions include:

Live vaccines and vinorelbine

Avoid taking any live vaccines while you’re on treatment with vinorelbine. This is because the drug can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of serious infection. Examples of live vaccines include:

  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella
  • polio
  • yellow fever

You may get a live vaccine 6 months after your treatment is complete. Your doctor can tell you more about which vaccines are safe and which should be avoided. The flu and COVID-19 vaccines are not live. Ask your doctor if you can take these safely during vinorelbine treatment.

Your doctor or pharmacist can give you more information on interactions and what to avoid while on vinorelbine treatment.

Vinorelbine is an effective medication that’s helped improve survival rates in people with advanced NSCLC. Your stage of lung cancer, overall health, how well you tolerate treatment with vinorelbine, and other factors determine your prognosis.

Your doctor can provide more information about your diagnosis, treatment options and resources available to help you navigate your treatment.

Vinorelbine has some common side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, taste, and smell changes. But there are some therapies that can help relieve some of these symptoms. Be sure to drink plenty of water and eat a fiber-rich diet to avoid constipation with vinorelbine.

If you want to learn more about cancer and NSCLC, here are a few resources: