If you have certain types of cancer or blood disorders, your doctor might suggest Gleevec (imatinib) as a treatment option for you. Gleevec is a prescription drug used in certain situations to treat:
- gastrointestinal stromal tumors in adults
- Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) chronic myeloid leukemia in adults and children
- Ph+ acute lymphocytic leukemia in adults and children
- aggressive systemic mastocytosis in adults
- myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative diseases (bone marrow cancers) in adults
- hypereosinophilic syndrome in adults
- chronic eosinophilic leukemia in adults
- dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (a type of soft tissue cancer in the deep layers of the skin) in adults
The active ingredient in Gleevec is imatinib. An active ingredient is what makes a drug work. Gleevec belongs to a group of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
This article describes the dosages of Gleevec, as well as its strengths and how to take the drug. To learn more about Gleevec, see this in-depth article.
Note: This article covers Gleevec’s typical dosages, which are provided by the drug’s manufacturer. But when taking Gleevec, always take the dosage that your doctor prescribes.
The following section describes Gleevec’s normal dosages that are typically recommended.
What is Gleevec’s form?
Gleevec comes in one dosage form: a tablet that you swallow.
What strengths does Gleevec come in?
Gleevec comes in the following strengths:
- 100 milligrams (mg)
- 400 mg
What are the typical dosages of Gleevec?
Your doctor will prescribe the typical starting dosage of Gleevec for your condition and adjust your dosage over time to reach the right amount for you. Your doctor will ultimately prescribe the smallest dosage that provides the desired effect.
The information below describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. But be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.
Dosage for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST)
The typical Gleevec dose for GIST is 400 mg daily. If your cancer worsens, your doctor may increase your dose to 400 mg twice daily.
Dosage for Ph+ chronic myeloid leukemia (CML)
Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) CML refers to a type of CML with a certain genetic mutation (change). Your dosage for this condition depends on which phase your CML is in:
- If you have Ph+ CML in the chronic (first) phase, your Gleevec dosage will be 400 mg daily.
- If you have Ph+ CML in the accelerated phase or blast crisis phase (meaning your CML is worsening), your Gleevec dosage will be 600 mg daily. If your cancer worsens or doesn’t improve, your doctor may increase your dosage to 800 mg per day. You’ll likely take this dose as 400 mg twice daily (once in the morning and once in the evening).
Dosage for Ph+ acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) ALL refers to a type of ALL with a certain genetic mutation (change). For this condition, your Gleevec dosage will be 600 mg daily.
Dosage for aggressive systemic mastocytosis
For aggressive systemic mastocytosis, your Gleevec dosage will be 400 mg daily.
If you have a certain genetic mutation (change), your starting Gleevec dosage for mastocytosis will be 100 mg daily. If you can tolerate this dosage, your doctor may increase your dosage to 400 mg daily.
Dosage for myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative diseases
If you have myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative diseases (bone marrow cancers), your Gleevec dosage will be 400 mg daily.
Dosage for hypereosinophilic syndrome or chronic eosinophilic leukemia
For hypereosinophilic syndrome or chronic eosinophilic leukemia, the typical Gleevec dosage is 400 mg daily.
If you have a certain genetic mutation (change), your starting dosage of Gleevec will be 100 mg daily. If you’re able to take this dose without bothersome side effects, your doctor might increase your dosage to 400 mg daily.
Dosage for dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans
If you have dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (a type of soft tissue cancer in the deep layers of the skin), your Gleevec dosage will be 800 mg daily. You’ll likely take this dose as 400 mg twice daily (once in the morning and once in the evening).
What’s the dosage of Gleevec for children?
Gleevec is used in children who have Ph+ CML or Ph+ ALL. The drug hasn’t been studied in children younger than 1 year old, so there’s no dosing information for this age group.
For children, Gleevec dosing is based on height and weight. Your child’s dose will be written as milligrams of Gleevec per square meter (mg/m2).
Dosage for Ph+ CML and Ph+ ALL in children
For CML or ALL in children, Gleevec’s dosage is 340 mg/m2 daily. The maximum dosage for this use is 600 mg daily. This might be prescribed as one dose per day or two doses per day (once in the morning and once in the evening).
Is Gleevec used long term?
Yes, Gleevec is typically taken as a long-term treatment. If you and your doctor determine that Gleevec is safe and effective for you, you’ll likely take it long term.
Your doctor might raise or lower your Gleevec dosage if you take a drug that interacts with Gleevec. (An interaction is an effect that occurs when you take a medication with certain other medications, vaccines, or substances.)
For example, your doctor may adjust your Gleevec dose if you take it along with certain corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone. See this article for examples of other drugs that may interact with Gleevec.
If you have decreased kidney function, your doctor might lower your Gleevec dosage (see the “Frequently asked questions” section below for details). And if you develop liver problems or low blood cell levels during treatment, your doctor may pause your Gleevec treatment to treat these problems. Then you might restart Gleevec with a lower dosage.
Below are answers to some common questions about Gleevec dosing.
Is it possible for Gleevec doses to be reduced to 200 mg per day?
Yes, your doctor might reduce your Gleevec dosage to 200 milligrams (mg) daily for several reasons.
One reason could be that you’re taking a medication that causes Gleevec to stay in your body longer than normal. Or your doctor might lower your dosage if you’re having certain side effects, such as liver problems or low levels of certain blood cells. (See this article for details about Gleevec’s side effects.)
Be sure to take Gleevec as prescribed by your doctor, and do not change your dosage without their recommendation.
If I have renal problems, will I need a change to my dosage of Gleevec?
Yes, if you have renal (kidney) problems, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose of Gleevec than usual. This is sometimes called a renal dose or adjusted dose.
You’ll have urine tests to check your creatinine clearance rate. This is a measurement of how well your kidneys are functioning. If these tests show that you have moderate renal dysfunction, your doctor will lower your Gleevec dosage by half. For example, if your starting dosage was going to be 800 mg daily, it will be 400 mg daily instead.
Talk with your doctor about the right dosage for your condition given your medical history.
The dosage of Gleevec you’re prescribed may depend on several factors. These include:
- the type and severity of the condition you’re using Gleevec to treat
- your age
- height and weight, for children only
- other medications you take
- any genetic mutations (changes) you have
- side effects you have from Gleevec (see this article for details)
- other conditions you may have (see “Dosage adjustments” under “What is Gleevec’s dosage?”)
You should take Gleevec tablets with food and swallow them with a large glass of water. You might take Gleevec once or twice per day, depending on your prescribed dosage. Try to take Gleevec at about the same time(s) each day.
If you have trouble swallowing Gleevec tablets, you may place the tablet into a large glass of water or apple juice. You should stir the mixture, let the tablet dissolve completely, and then drink it right away. Be sure to use enough water or juice to completely dissolve the tablet. For example, you’ll need at least 200 milliliters (mL) of liquid to dissolve a 400-mg Gleevec tablet. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist for instructions before trying this on your own.
For information on Gleevec expiration, storage, and disposal, see this article.
Accessible drug containers and labels
If you find it hard to read the prescription label on your medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Some pharmacies may provide medication labels that:
- have large print or use braille
- feature a code that you can scan with a smartphone to change the text to audio
Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend pharmacies that offer these accessibility features if your current pharmacy doesn’t.
Gleevec also sometimes comes in a blister pack. If you have trouble opening medication bottles or blister packs, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to supply Gleevec in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also have some tips to help make it simpler to open the drug’s bottle or blister pack. See the “Ask a pharmacist” section below for details.
If you miss a Gleevec dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose as usual. Do not take two doses at once.
If you need help remembering to take your dose of Gleevec on time, try using a medication reminder. This can include setting an alarm or using a timer. You could also download a reminder app on your phone.
Do not take more Gleevec than your doctor prescribes. Taking more than this can lead to serious side effects.
Symptoms of overdose
Symptoms caused by an overdose of Gleevec can include:
- nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- muscle pain or muscle twitching
- belly pain
- decreased appetite
- swelling in your face
- abnormal levels of certain blood cells
- severe rash
What to do in case you take too much Gleevec
Call your doctor right away if you think you’ve taken too much Gleevec. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, call 911 (or your local emergency number) immediately or go to the nearest emergency room.
The sections above describe the typical dosages provided by Gleevec’s manufacturer. If your doctor recommends Gleevec for you, they will prescribe the dosage that’s right for you.
Remember, you should not change your dosage of Gleevec without your doctor’s recommendation. Only take Gleevec exactly as prescribed. Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your current dosage.
Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask your doctor:
- Will a lower dosage of Gleevec work as well as a higher dosage, especially if I have kidney problems?
- Does my Gleevec dosage need to change if I start taking an antibiotic?
- Will a higher Gleevec dosage make any side effects worse, like nausea?
My Gleevec medication comes in a blister pack instead of a bottle. How can I easily open the package?Anonymous
Blister packaging makes it harder for children to accidentally open the drug. The Gleevec manufacturer’s website has a video tutorial about how to open the blister pack.
If the blister pack is too hard for you to open, you can ask for Gleevec to come in a bottle instead. You can also talk with your doctor or pharmacist and ask for a demonstration.The Healthline Pharmacist TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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 another 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.