If you have chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) that’s Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+), your doctor might suggest Tasigna (nilotinib) as a treatment option. It’s a prescription medication that’s used to treat Ph+ CML in adults and children ages 1 year and older.
Tasigna comes as a capsule that you swallow. If you and your doctor agree it’s working well for you, you’ll likely take Tasigna long term.
For more information about Tasigna, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article on the drug.
Like other drugs, Tasigna can cause mild or serious side effects. Keep reading to learn more.
Some people may have mild or serious side effects with Tasigna treatment. Examples of Tasigna’s commonly reported side effects include:
Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Tasigna include:
- belly pain
- common cold symptoms, such as stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, and sneezing
- dry skin
- fatigue (low energy)
- nausea and vomiting
- night sweats
- pain in your joints or muscles
- skin rash
- hair loss (see “Side effects explained” below)
In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be managed, too. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or that bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And don’t stop taking Tasigna unless your doctor recommends it.
Tasigna may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the Tasigna prescribing information for details.
Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Tasigna, visit MedWatch.
Serious side effects that have been reported with Tasigna include:
- blockages in your blood vessels or heart
- problems with electrolyte levels (minerals in your body), including:
- low or high potassium
- low phosphorus
- hemorrhage (severe bleeding) and other bleeding problems
- low levels of certain blood cells, including:
- pancreatitis (inflammation of your pancreas)
- tumor lysis syndrome (a condition that can occur when cancer tumor cells break down)
- severe fluid retention (high fluid levels in your body)
- long QT syndrome (a type of abnormal heart rhythm) and sudden death*†
- decreased blood flow to your brain, heart, or leg†
- liver problems†
- allergic reaction†
If you develop serious side effects while taking Tasigna, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
* Tasigna has a
† To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
Tasigna can be taken by children ages 1 year and older. In addition to the side effects described above, a possible side effect of Tasigna in children is slowed growth rates.
A slowed growth rate refers to a child not growing in height as much as expected compared with standards for children their age.
In studies, slowed growth rate was more likely to be reported in children under 12 years old. It isn’t known whether Tasigna has long-term effects on children’s growth.
Your child’s doctor will monitor their growth during Tasigna treatment. Be sure to talk with your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about their growth.
Children taking Tasigna also had the following side effects more often than adults in studies:
- high level of bilirubin in the blood, which can lead to jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
- high levels of certain liver enzymes (types of proteins)
Your child’s doctor can provide more information about Tasigna’s side effects in children.
Get answers to some frequently asked questions about Tasigna’s side effects.
Does Tasigna cause long-term side effects?
Yes, Tasigna can cause long-term side effects. For example, it’s possible for long QT syndrome, which is a type of abnormal heart rhythm, to be long term. Tasigna has a
For more information on long QT syndrome and Tasigna, see the “Side effects explained” section below. Your doctor can also tell you about long-term side effects with Tasigna.
Where can I see pictures of skin rashes caused by Tasigna?
Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have signs of a possible rash (even if it doesn’t look exactly like the pictures you see). Your doctor can help determine if it may be caused by Tasigna.
Can stopping Tasigna treatment cause withdrawal symptoms?
No, withdrawal symptoms haven’t been reported with Tasigna. These are symptoms that can occur after you stop taking a drug that your body has become dependent on. But it’s possible for signs of your cancer to come back or get worse if you stop Tasigna.
If you’ve taken Tasigna for at least 3 years and your leukemia is in remission (showing lessened or no symptoms), your doctor may talk with you about stopping Tasigna. This is called treatment-free remission (TFR). Your doctor will monitor you for loss of remission if you stop taking Tasigna.
It’s possible to experience pain or an increase in pain during TFR, after you stop taking Tasigna. This includes pain in your bones, joints, muscles, spine, arms, or legs. If you’re having pain or possible cancer symptoms, be sure to talk with your doctor. Together you can discuss treatments.
Is it possible to have erectile dysfunction (ED) from taking Tasigna?
If you’re having ED and think it may be caused by Tasigna, talk with your doctor. They can evaluate your symptoms and help determine possible causes. Depending on your general health, they may recommend treatment for ED.
Learn more about some of the side effects Tasigna may cause.
Hair loss or thinning is a possible side effect of Tasigna. This wasn’t among the more common side effects reported in people taking the drug in studies. Keep in mind that many other cancer treatments can also cause hair loss.
What might help
Talk with your doctor if you have hair loss or thinning while being treated with Tasigna. They may recommend a medication, such as Rogaine (minoxidil), to treat it. But you shouldn’t start taking other medications unless your doctor tells you it’s safe to do so.
Your doctor might recommend other treatments to manage hair loss, including:
- hair products and shampoos for thinning hair or bald spots
- hats, scarves, or turbans
- cold caps and scalp cooling systems
In rare cases, Tasigna can cause serious liver problems. If you already have liver problems or have had them in the past, you may be at higher risk of this side effect.
Symptoms of liver damage can include:
- belly pain
- dark-colored urine
- jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
What might help
Your doctor will order certain blood tests to check your liver function before you start treatment with Tasigna. These tests check your levels of certain enzymes (proteins) made by your liver. If you have high liver enzyme levels, your doctor may consider a different treatment or prescribe a lower dose of Tasigna than usual.
While you’re being treated with Tasigna, you’ll continue to have blood tests to monitor your liver enzyme levels.
If you notice symptoms of liver problems while taking Tasigna, contact your doctor right away. They may temporarily have you stop taking Tasigna. And if they have you restart treatment, they’ll likely lower your Tasigna dose.
Decreased blood flow
Symptoms of decreased blood flow can include:
- numbness or weakness
- pain or discomfort in your chest
- trouble walking or speaking
- skin discoloration on your leg
- pain or coldness in your leg
What might help
Get help right away if you develop any of the above symptoms or other possible signs of a stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will monitor you for signs of blood flow problems during your treatment with Tasigna. And you’ll discuss your risk factors for these side effects before you start treatment.
Long QT syndrome and sudden death
With long QT syndrome, there are electrical changes in your heart rhythm. This doesn’t always cause symptoms, but possible symptoms include:
- feeling like your heart skips a beat
- feeling extra heartbeats
Long QT syndrome can lead to serious cardiac (heart) problems. Very rarely, sudden death has occurred in people taking Tasigna. It’s thought that cases of sudden death in people taking Tasigna may be due to long QT syndrome.
Certain factors can increase your risk of long QT syndrome with Tasigna, such as:
- certain heart problems
- problems with electrolytes (minerals in your body), such as low potassium or low magnesium
- taking Tasigna with food*
- taking certain other medications with Tasigna that can also cause long QT syndrome
Before you start taking Tasigna, you’ll have an electrocardiogram (ECG). This is a test that checks the electrical rhythm of your heart.
You’ll have an ECG again 1 week after you begin Tasigna treatment to check for any changes in your heart rhythm. And you’ll have ECGs regularly while you’re taking Tasigna.
* Tasigna should be taken on an empty stomach. Avoid eating food 2 hours before and 1 hour after taking your Tasigna dose. See this article for details about how to take Tasigna.
What might help
Be sure to tell your doctor about your medical history and all of the medications you’re taking. If you notice symptoms of long QT syndrome while taking Tasigna, contact your doctor right away. If your symptoms feel life threatening, call 911 or get emergency medical help.
Like most drugs, Tasigna can cause an allergic reaction in some people. This was rare in studies of the drug.
Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
- swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
- swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe
What might help
If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), or a topical product, such as hydrocortisone cream, to manage your symptoms.
If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.
If your doctor confirms you had a serious allergic reaction to Tasigna, they may have you switch to a different treatment.
Keeping track of side effects
During your Tasigna treatment, consider keeping notes on any side effects you’re having. Then, you can share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful to do when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.
Your side effect notes can include things such as:
- what dose of drug you were taking when you had the side effect
- how soon after starting that dose you had the side effect
- what your symptoms were from the side effect
- how it affected your daily activities
- what other medications you were also taking
- any other information you feel is important
Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help your doctor learn more about how Tasigna affects you. And your doctor can use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.
Before taking Tasigna, there are certain precautions to keep in mind.
Tasigna has the following
Long QT syndrome. Tasigna can cause long QT syndrome (a type of abnormal heart rhythm). This condition can be life threatening.
Sudden death. Sudden death has occurred in people taking Tasigna. It’s thought that this may be related to long QT syndrome.
To learn more, see the “Side effects explained” section above.
Tasigna may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Tasigna. The list below includes factors to consider.
Bleeding problems. Hemorrhage (severe bleeding) has occurred in people taking Tasigna. In extreme cases, hemorrhage can be fatal. If you already have a bleeding problem, you may be at higher risk of hemorrhage if you take Tasigna. Your doctor can determine if Tasigna is safe for you.
Electrolyte problems. Having certain electrolyte (mineral) problems, such as low or high potassium, low sodium, low calcium, or low phosphorus, can increase your risk of serious side effects from Tasigna. Your doctor may prescribe treatment for your electrolyte condition before you begin treatment with Tasigna. They’ll also monitor your electrolyte levels during your treatment.
Heart problems, including an irregular heartbeat. Tasigna can cause heart problems. If you already have heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat, you may be at higher risk of heart-related side effects from Tasigna. You’re also at higher risk if you have a family history of long QT syndrome. Heart side effects may also be more serious if you already have a heart problem. Your doctor will advise whether Tasigna is safe for you to take with your heart condition.
Liver problems. Tasigna can cause liver side effects. Having liver problems can increase your risk of these side effects. You may also have a higher risk of other side effects. This is because your liver may not be able to remove Tasigna from your body like usual. Your doctor may prescribe a lower dose of Tasigna if you have liver problems. Or, they may recommend a different treatment for your condition.
History of pancreatitis. Rarely, Tasigna can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of your pancreas) as a side effect. If you’ve had pancreatitis in the past, you may be at higher risk of this side effect. Your doctor can help determine if treatment with Tasigna is safe for you.
Problems with blood flow in your legs. Blood flow problems are a side effect of Tasigna. If you already have problems with blood flow in your legs, you may be at higher risk of this side effect. Your doctor will recommend whether treatment with Tasigna is safe for you.
Stroke or other problems with blood flow to the brain. Decreased blood flow to the heart or brain is a possible side effect of Tasigna. If you’ve had a stroke or other problems due to decreased blood flow to your brain, you may be at higher risk of this side effect. Your doctor can help determine if treatment with Tasigna is safe for you.
Severe lactose intolerance. Tasigna capsules contain lactose. Most people with mild or moderate lactose intolerance are still able to take the drug. But if you have severe lactose intolerance, Tasigna may not be right for you. Be sure to talk with your doctor about this before starting Tasigna.
Total gastrectomy (surgery to remove your entire stomach). If you’ve had a total gastrectomy, Tasigna may not work as well for you as usual. Your doctor may prescribe a higher Tasigna dose, or they may decide another treatment option is better for your chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Tasigna or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Tasigna. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
Alcohol and Tasigna
There’s no known interaction between alcohol and Tasigna.
However, drinking alcohol and taking Tasigna can both cause liver problems. Drinking alcohol while taking the drug could raise your risk of liver problems.
If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much is safe to have while taking Tasigna.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Tasigna
Tasigna can cause fetal harm if taken during pregnancy. If you can become pregnant, your doctor will likely have you take a pregnancy test to make sure you’re not pregnant before prescribing Tasigna. And you’ll need to use effective birth control while taking the drug and for at least 14 days after your last dose.
It’s not known if it’s safe to breastfeed while taking Tasigna. Due to the risk of side effects in a breastfed child, it’s recommended that you not breastfeed while taking Tasigna. And you should avoid breastfeeding for at least 14 days after your last dose of treatment.
Side effects of Tasigna are typically mild, but serious side effects can happen. If you have questions about Tasigna’s side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Here are a few questions that could be helpful to ask:
- Can other medical conditions I have increase my risk of side effects from Tasigna?
- How often will I need to have lab tests to check for Tasigna’s side effects?
- Does my age increase my risk of side effects with Tasigna?
Why do I need to avoid taking Tasigna with food, especially if food might help with nausea?Anonymous
Food can increase the level of Tasigna in your body. This can be dangerous because it can increase your risk of serious side effects.
For example, taking Tasigna with food can lead to life threatening side effects, such as long QT syndrome. This is a type of abnormal heart rhythm. Tasigna has a
You should take Tasigna on an empty stomach. Specifically, avoid any food for 2 hours before your dose and at least one hour after. You should also not have grapefruit or grapefruit juice during Tasigna treatment. See this article for details about how to take Tasigna.
Contact your doctor right away if you have any possible symptoms of serious side effects. If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number. Or, go to the nearest emergency room.Tanya Kertsman, PharmDAnswers 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.