By Eli Lilly

What is this medication for?

Pemetrexed belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications known as antineoplastics, and specifically to the group of antineoplastics known as antifolates. Pemetrexed is used in combination with the other antineoplastic medications to treat cancer of the lining of the chest cavity, known as pleural mesothelioma, and to treat lung cancer. It blocks the activity of folate, which is necessary for cell growth and replication.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Alimta® is available as:

  • injectable (intravenous)
    • 100 mg per vial
    • 500 mg per vial
Some medications may have other generic brands available. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of switching between brands of the same medication.

How should I use this medication?

The recommended dose and dosing schedule of pemetrexed varies according to the specific disease being treated, the response to therapy, and the other medications being used. The dose given is also based on body size. Pemetrexed is usually injected into a vein through a specially prepared site on your skin. Very careful handling of this medication is required. It is always given under the supervision of a doctor in a hospital or similar setting with access to sterile equipment for preparation. Often the prescribed amount of medication is infused into a vein for a period of at least 10 minutes once every 21 days until the total treatment is complete. Because it is usually administered in combination with another antineoplastic medication, the entire process may take up to 3 hours.

As well as interfering with replication of cancer cells, pemetrexed can interfere with some of your normal cells. This can cause a number of side effects such as hair loss, mouth sores, and infections. Pemetrexed often causes mild nausea and vomiting, but it is important to continue your treatments. Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can advise you on how to reduce the effects of nausea and vomiting.

Before your dose of pemetrexed, you will be given some medication to reduce the symptoms of side effects. To reduce your chances of getting skin reactions from pemetrexed, your doctor will recommend a corticosteroid medication such as dexamethasone to take a day before, the day of, and the day after your treatment. To lower your chances of side effects, your doctor will recommend taking 400 µg to 1000 µg of folic acid once daily starting a week before the first dose of pemetrexed and continuing over the full course of therapy plus 21 days after the last dose of pemetrexed. Your doctor will also recommend receiving vitamin B12 injections one week before the first dose of pemetrexed and at every 3 cycles of treatment.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

Keep track of any side effects and report them to your doctor as suggested in the section, "What side effects are possible with this medication?"

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

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not use this medication if you are allergic to pemetrexed or any ingredients of the medication.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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