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Drug Guide    A   Asparaginase

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Asparaginase is used with or without other anticancer (chemotherapy) drugs to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). It works by starving tumor cells of needed nutrients and slowing tumor cell growth.Asparaginase may also be used for other cancers such as lymphomas.

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 Asparaginase images:

OverviewPhotosHow To UseSide EffectsPrecautionsMissed DoseDrug Interactions

Asparaginase is used with or without other anticancer (chemotherapy) drugs to treat acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). It works by starving tumor cells of needed nutrients and slowing tumor cell growth.Asparaginase may also be used for other cancers such as lymphomas.
  • Do not share this medication with others.Laboratory tests (e.g., blood cell counts, liver function tests, amylase levels, lipids, and blood sugars) should be performed to monitor your progress or check for side effects.
  • Consult your doctor for more details.
  • Keep all scheduled medical appointments.

  • Store the US product in the refrigerator between 36-46 degrees F (2-8 degrees C).
  • Once mixed, asparaginase should be used within 8 hours.Store the Canadian product in the refrigerator between 36-46 degrees F (2-8 degrees C).
  • Once mixed, asparaginase must be used within 14 days.Keep all medicines away from children and pets.

How To Use
  • This medication is given by vein (intravenously-IV), into the muscle (intramuscularly-IM), or under the skin (subcutaneously-SubQ).
  • The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to therapy.Your doctor may give you a skin test before your first treatment and if a long time has passed since your last dose of asparaginase.
  • Though skin testing does not always correctly show that you will not have an allergic reaction to this drug, your doctor may still use it to help predict such a reaction.
  • If you have a reaction to the test dose, your doctor may decide not to treat you with asparaginase or to give you small, slowly increasing doses while monitoring you for allergic reactions until you reach the full treatment dose.Your doctor will give you pre-medication to help prevent allergic reactions.Unless your doctor instructs you otherwise, drink plenty of fluids while using this medication.Follow all instructions for proper mixing.
  • When mixed in the vial, this medication should be clear.
  • Before using, check this product visually for particles or discoloration.
  • If either is present, do not use the liquid.
  • When receiving asparaginase by vein, follow all instructions for dilution with the correct IV fluid.This medication may contain small particles after it is added to the solution in the IV infusion bag.
  • It is important to use an IV filter ("in-line" filter) while giving this solution by vein.
  • Consult your pharmacist about the proper size (5 micron filter) and use of this filter.

Side Effects
  • Pain or swelling at the injection site, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, headache, loss of energy, and drowsiness may occur.
  • Nausea and vomiting can be severe, and in some cases drug therapy may be needed.
  • Not eating before your treatment may help relieve nausea and vomiting.
  • Changes in diet such as eating several small meals or limiting activity may help lessen some of these effects.
  • If these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly.Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects.
  • Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: mental/mood changes, tremor, muscle stiffness, joint pain, swelling of hands/feet/lower legs, yellowing of the eyes or skin, unusual bleeding/bruising (e.g., nose bleeds, black or bloody stools).Tell your doctor immediately if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: vision changes, dizziness, blackouts, severe headache, unusual thirst, frequent urination, change in the amount of urine, abnormally high body temperature, severe stomach pain with nausea/vomiting, chest pain.This medication can lower the body's ability to fight an infection.
  • Notify your doctor promptly if you develop any signs of an infection such as fever, chills, sores in mouth or on lips, or persistent sore throat.A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is unlikely, but seek immediate medical attention if it occurs (See also Warning section).
  • Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction may include: rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, trouble breathing.If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Before receiving asparaginase, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it or if you have any other allergies.This medication should not be used if you have certain medical conditions.
  • Before using this medicine, consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have: pancreatitis.Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist of your medical history, especially of: liver disease.This drug may make you dizzy or drowsy; use caution engaging in activities requiring alertness such as driving or using machinery.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages.Also limit alcoholic beverages as drinking alcohol may increase your chance of bleeding in the stomach or intestines.Do not have immunizations/vaccinations without the consent of your doctor and avoid contact with people who have recently received oral polio vaccine.Wash hands well to prevent the spread of infections.Use caution with sharp objects like razors or nail cutters and avoid activities such as contact sports to lower the chance of getting cut, bruised or injured.This medication should be used only when clearly needed during pregnancy.
  • Asparaginase may cause harm to an unborn baby.
  • If you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant, inform your doctor immediately.
  • Women of child-bearing age should use an effective form of birth control while using this medication.
  • Discuss the risks, benefits and any other concerns with your doctor.It is not known whether asparaginase passes into breast milk.
  • Because of the potential risk to the infant, breast-feeding while using this drug is not recommended.
  • Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.

Missed Dose
  • It is important that you receive asparaginase as scheduled by your doctor.
  • If you miss a dose, contact your doctor immediately to obtain a new dosing schedule.

Drug Interactions
  • Your healthcare professionals (e.g., doctor or pharmacist) may already be aware of any possible drug interactions and may be monitoring you for it.
  • Do not start, stop or change the dosage of any medicine before checking with them first.Asparaginase should not be used with the following medication because a very serious interaction may occur: live vaccines.Asparaginase should not be used by vein with or immediately before vincristine or prednisone because very serious side effects such as blood problems (erythropoiesis) or numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in the hands or feet may occur.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the usefulness of receiving asparaginase after these drugs if they are part of your chemotherapy regimen.Before using asparaginase, tell your doctor or pharmacist of all prescription and nonprescription/herbal products you may use, especially of: other drugs for cancer, drugs affected by liver enzymes (such as cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, vincristine, mercaptopurine, or prednisone).Asparaginase can either decrease the beneficial effect of these drugs or increase their side effects when given before or at the same time as these drugs.
  • If you are currently using any of these medications listed above, tell your doctor or pharmacist before taking asparaginase.This product can affect the results of certain lab tests.
  • Make sure laboratory personnel and your doctors know you use this drug.

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CONDITIONS OF USE: The information in this database is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgement of healthcare professionals. The information is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be construed to indicate that use of a particular drug is safe, appropriate or effective for you or anyone else. A healthcare professional should be consulted before taking any drug, changing any diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.

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