How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Vinblastine belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications known as antineoplastics. Vinblastine is used alone or in combination with other antineoplastic medications to treat many different types of cancer including Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (cancer of the lymph cells), Kaposi's sarcoma, breast cancer, and testicular cancer. It kills cancer cells by interfering with the genetic material DNA, which is necessary for their growth and reproduction.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are using this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop receiving this medication without consulting your doctor.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each mL of sterile, preservative-free solution for injection contains 1 mg of vinblastine. Nonmedicinal ingredients: sodium chloride 0.9% in water for injection.

How should I use this medication?

The recommended dose and dosing schedule of vinblastine varies according to the specific type of cancer being treated, the response to therapy, and the other medications or treatments being used. The dose given is based on body size.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. Your doctor may decide on a dosage schedule different from that described here.

Vinblastine is available as an intravenous (into the vein) injection. It is usually injected through a specially prepared site on your skin. It should not be given more often than once every 7 days. Very careful handling of this medication is required. Vinblastine should only be given by health care professionals familiar with the use of cancer chemotherapy. It is always given under the supervision of a doctor in a hospital or similar setting with access to sterile equipment for preparation.

It is important that this medication be given exactly as recommended by your doctor. If you miss an appointment to receive vinblastine, contact your doctor as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment.

As well as interfering with the genetic material (DNA) of cancer cells, vinblastine can interfere with some of your normal cells. This can cause a number of side effects. Keep track of any side effects and report them to your doctor. Your doctor may want you to drink extra fluids while using this medication to prevent kidney problems.

This medication is stored in the refrigerator and protected from light and freezing.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not use this medication if you:

  • are allergic to vinblastine or any ingredients of this medication
  • are pregnant
  • have a bacterial infection
  • have a low level of white blood cells

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is used in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who uses this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people using this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • abdominal cramps
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • general feeling of discomfort
  • headache
  • hearing loss
  • lack of sperm production (males)
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • sensation of spinning
  • temporary loss of hair
  • vomiting

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • breathing problems
  • difficulty urinating
  • increased blood pressure
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes
  • signs of depression (e.g., poor concentration, changes in weight, changes in sleep, decreased interest in activities, thoughts of suicide)
  • signs of gout or uric acid buildup in the body (e.g., joint pain, pain in the fingers and toes)
  • signs of slowed digestive system (e.g., gas, abdominal pain, cramping, lack of bowel movements)
  • sores in mouth and on the lips
  • white and numb fingers or toes when exposed to cold temperatures

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • decreased reflexes
  • decreased sense of reality
  • pain, redness, or swelling at injection site
  • psychosis
  • seizures
  • signs of a serious allergic reaction (e.g., hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face and throat)
  • signs of bleeding (e.g., unusual bruising or bleeding, pinpoint red spots on skin, black tarry stools, bloody nose, blood in urine, coughing blood, bleeding from the rectum, cuts that don't stop bleeding)
  • signs of heart attack (e.g., sudden chest pain or pain radiating to back, down arm, jaw; sensation of fullness of the chest; nausea; vomiting; sweating; anxiety)
  • symptoms of infection (fever or chills, sore throat, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, painful or difficult urination or listlessness)
  • signs of stroke (e.g., sudden or severe headache; sudden loss of coordination; vision changes; sudden slurring of speech; or unexplained weakness, numbness, or pain in arm or leg)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Blood clotting: This medication can reduce the number of platelet cells in the blood and increase your risk of bleeding. Tell your doctor immediately if you notice any signs that your blood is not clotting as quickly as usual (e.g., black and tarry stools, blood in the urine, easy bruising, or cuts that won't stop bleeding). Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of platelets in your blood.

Cardiovascular effects: Vinblastine has effects on the heart and circulatory (blood vessels) system. It may cause increased blood pressure. Reports of heart attack, stroke, and a constriction of the blood vessels called Raynaud's phenomenon have been reported with the use of vinblastine.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or other diseases of the heart and blood system, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Gout: Vinblastine may increase the levels of uric acid in the body and increase the risk for gout. If you have gout or a history of gout, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. Report any unusual joint pain or swelling to your doctor as soon as possible.

Grapefruit juice: Grapefruit juice may prevent vinblastine from leaving the body normally. This causes an increase in the amount of vinblastine in the body and may lead to severe side effects. Avoid drinking grapefruit juice while you are receiving treatment with vinblastine.

Infection: In addition to killing cancer cells, this medication can reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). If possible, avoid contact with people with contagious infections.

Tell your doctor immediately if you begin to notice signs of an infection, such as fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness. Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of specific types of blood cells in your blood.

Liver function: Side effects of vinblastine may be more likely for people with decreased liver function. If you have reduced liver function or liver disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Nerve problems: Vinblastine may cause nerve damage. This often goes away when treatment is stopped or the dose is decreased. If you experience reduced hearing, difficulty speaking, tingling and numbness of your hands and feet, or severe jaw pain, let your doctor know.

Reproduction: Vinblastine can affect sperm production and ovary function. For some people, this may reverse when treatment is complete. If you have concerns about the effect this medication has on your ability to have children, talk to your doctor.

Pregnancy: There is a possibility of birth defects if either the father or mother is using vinblastine at the time of conception, or if it is used during pregnancy. It may also harm the baby in other ways if used during pregnancy.

This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. Use effective birth control while you are being treated with this medication. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: This medication may pass into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and using vinblastine, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: Vinblastine has been used to treat cancer in children. It should be prescribed and given only by doctors familiar with treating cancer in children.

Seniors: Seniors may be at increased risk for developing infection or bleeding problems when using vinblastine.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

For a full list of interactions, use the Drug Interaction Checker available on the website.

If you are taking other medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.

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