If you have non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), your doctor might suggest Zykadia as a treatment option for you.
Zykadia is a prescription medication used in adults with NSCLC that’s anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive (ALK+) and metastatic (the cancer has spread to other parts of your body).
The active ingredient in Zykadia is ceritinib. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.)
For more information about Zykadia, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.
Like other drugs, Zykadia can cause mild to serious side effects. Keep reading to learn more.
Some people may experience mild to serious side effects during their Zykadia treatment. Examples of Zykadia’s commonly reported side effects include:
Digestive side effects are common with this drug. Taking your dose with food may lower your risk of side effects such as diarrhea and nausea.
The following sections contain information about other possible side effects of this drug.
Like most medications, Zykadia can cause mild side effects.
Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Zykadia include:
In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed, too. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And do not stop using Zykadia unless your doctor recommends it.
Zykadia may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the Zykadia 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 Zykadia, visit MedWatch.
Although it’s not common, Zykadia treatment may cause serious side effects.
Serious side effects that have been reported with Zykadia include:
- severe digestive side effects such as severe diarrhea or vomiting
- lung problems such as interstitial lung disease and pneumonitis
- abnormal heart rhythm*
- high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes*
- liver damage*
- pancreatitis (swelling in the liver)*
- allergic reaction†
If you develop serious side effects while taking Zykadia, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using Zykadia. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies.
Learn more about some of the side effects Zykadia may cause.
Abnormal heart rhythm
Zykadia can cause abnormal heart rhythm in some people. In studies, Zykadia caused the following types of abnormal heart rhythm:
- Long QT syndrome. With long QT syndrome, part of your heart rhythm is lengthened. This condition can be severe or even life threatening. Long QT syndrome wasn’t fatal in studies of Zykadia, but in rare cases, people stopped taking the drug because of this side effect.
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate). Bradycardia was rare in studies, and no one stopped taking Zykadia because of this side effect.
An abnormal heart rhythm may not cause symptoms. But possible symptoms include:
- feeling weak, dizzy, or lightheaded
- getting tired quickly during physical activity
- fatigue (low energy)
- trouble breathing
What might help
Because of the risk for abnormal heart rhythms, doctors likely won’t prescribe Zykadia if you have certain risk factors. These include taking other medications that can cause slow heart rate or if you already have long QT syndrome.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe Zykadia but may monitor you closely during treatment. Examples include if you:
- take other medications that can cause long QT syndrome
- have heart failure or already have a slow heart rate
- have electrolyte problems, such as low levels of sodium, potassium, or magnesium
Call your doctor right away if you notice symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm while taking Zykadia. They’ll likely want to evaluate your symptoms in person. In some cases, they may have you temporarily stop taking Zykadia, then restart at a lower dose if your symptoms go away. Or they may have you permanently stop taking Zykadia and switch to a different treatment.
High blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes
Treatment with Zykadia can cause hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels). This wasn’t common in the drug’s studies, but it can occur. Hyperglycemia can cause type 2 diabetes, but it’s not clear whether anyone taking Zykadia in studies was diagnosed with diabetes.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia can include:
- feeling more thirsty or hungry than usual
- urinating more frequently than usual
- feeling more tired than usual
- trouble concentrating
What might help
Your doctor will test your blood sugar levels before prescribing Zykadia for you. They’ll also check your blood sugar at certain points during your treatment. If your levels are high, they may prescribe a medication to lower them, such as Glumetza (metformin). They’ll also likely decrease your Zykadia dose or have you stop taking Zykadia and switch to a different treatment.
In rare cases, Zykadia can cause pancreatitis (swelling in the pancreas).
Symptoms of pancreatitis can include:
- pain in your upper belly, which may spread to your back
- tender or swollen belly
- nausea and vomiting
What might help
Before you start taking Zykadia, you’ll have a blood test to check the enzyme (protein) levels in your pancreas. You’ll also have these tests during your treatment. If your enzyme levels are high, your doctor will have you temporarily stop taking Zykadia until they return to normal. Then, they’ll likely have you start taking Zykadia again at a lower dose.
If you notice symptoms of pancreatitis while taking Zykadia, call your doctor right away. This condition often requires treatment in a hospital. You’ll typically feel better within a few days as long as you receive early treatment.
If you develop pancreatitis from taking Zykadia, your doctor will temporarily stop treatment until your symptoms are treated. Then, they’ll determine whether it’s safe for you to keep taking the drug.
In rare cases, Zykadia may cause liver damage. This often doesn’t cause symptoms unless it’s severe. Mild or moderate liver damage is often only noticed on blood tests. (See “What might help” below for more information on these tests.) But you may have symptoms in some cases, including:
- jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
- pain in the right upper area of your belly
- dark-colored urine
What might help
During your Zykadia treatment, your doctor will order blood tests at least once per month to check your liver function. These tests check the levels of your liver enzymes (proteins). If your levels are high, your doctor may temporarily stop your Zykadia treatment, then have you restart it at a lower dose. In some cases, they may have you permanently stop taking Zykadia and switch to a different treatment.
If you have questions about your risk of liver damage during your Zykadia treatment, talk with your doctor.
Like most drugs, Zykadia can cause an allergic reaction in some people. But this side effect wasn’t reported in studies.
Symptoms can be mild to serious and can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
- swelling under your skin, usually 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 a treatment to manage your symptoms. Examples include:
- an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
- a topical product, such as hydrocortisone cream
If your doctor confirms you’ve had a mild allergic reaction to Zykadia, they’ll decide whether you should continue using it.
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’ve had a serious allergic reaction to Zykadia, they may have you switch to a different treatment.
Keeping track of side effects
During your Zykadia treatment, consider taking notes on any side effects you’re having. You can then share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful 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 the drug you were taking when you had the side effect
- how soon you had the side effect after starting that dose
- what your symptoms were
- how it affected your daily activities
- what other medications you were taking
- any other information you feel is important
Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help them learn more about how Zykadia affects you. They can then use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.
Zykadia 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 starting Zykadia. The list below includes factors to consider.
Liver problems. In rare cases, Zykadia causes liver damage. If you already have liver problems, you may have a higher risk of this side effect. Talk with your doctor about whether Zykadia is safe for you.
Diabetes. Zykadia can raise your blood sugar and could cause mild hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In rare cases, this side effect can be serious. If you already have diabetes, taking Zykadia may worsen your condition. If your doctor decides to prescribe Zykadia for you, they may have you monitor your blood sugar closely during treatment.
Heart problems, including long QT syndrome. Zykadia can affect your heart rhythm. Although this side effect is rare, you may have a higher risk if you have existing heart problems (such as long QT syndrome). Your doctor can determine whether it’s safe for you to take Zykadia.
Pancreatitis. In rare cases, Zykadia can cause pancreatitis. It’s not known if you have a higher risk if you’ve had pancreatitis in the past. If you’ve had pancreatitis before, your doctor can determine whether Zykadia is safe for you.
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Zykadia or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Zykadia. Ask them what other medications are better options for you.
Alcohol use and Zykadia
It should be safe to drink alcohol while taking Zykadia.
But it’s important to note that Zykadia can cause liver damage in rare cases. Alcohol can also damage your liver. So drinking alcohol during Zykadia treatment may raise your risk of liver damage.
If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much may be safe for you to drink during your Zykadia treatment.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Zykadia
Zykadia is not safe to take while pregnant. If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
If you can become pregnant, you should use birth control while taking Zykadia and for at least 6 months after your last dose. Males* with a partner who can become pregnant should use birth control while taking Zykadia and for 3 months after their last dose.
If you become pregnant while taking Zykadia, call your doctor right away.
You should not breastfeed while taking Zykadia and for at least 2 weeks after taking your last dose. If you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about your options.
* In this article, we use the term “male” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
Zykadia can cause side effects in some people. In most cases, side effects of the drug should be mild.
Before you start taking Zykadia, talk with your doctor. Ask questions that help you feel comfortable about possible side effects of the drug. Some examples to get you started include:
- Do any medications I take raise my risk of side effects if I take Zykadia?
- If I have side effects from taking Zykadia, is there a lower dose I can try?
- How do Zykadia’s side effects compare with those of other drugs that could treat my condition?
Are there foods I should avoid while taking Zykadia?Anonymous
Yes, you should avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking Zykadia. Consuming grapefruit can cause Zykadia levels to build up in your body. This can raise your risk of side effects, including serious side effects. It could also make side effects more severe.
If you have questions, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.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.