Gleevec medication side effects, danger and medical benefits, Imatinib
October 24 2015 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.


Gleevec is a prescription medication used to treat cancer.


Gleevec side effects, danger, caution, adverse events, risks
The most common Gleevec side effect is nausea. Other common Gleevec side effects are fluid retention (swelling around the eyes or legs), diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle cramps, muscle, joint or bone pain, abdominal pain, hemorrhage and rash. In some cases, these Gleevec side effects are managed with other medications without having to reduce the dose of Gleevec or stop treatment. A newly discovered Gleevec side effect is heart failure, which makes one reconsider the usefulness of this drug and whether alternatives to Gleevec should be explored.
   Gleevec has a very high rate of side effects and this is of major concern to the patient with leukemia.
   Hearing loss with the Novartis cancer drug Gleevec has been reported to the FDA.


Crit Rev Oncology Hematol. 2014. Systematic review of the side effects associated with tyrosine kinase inhibitors used in the treatment of gastrointestinal stromal tumours on behalf of the EORTC Quality of Life Group. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have revolutionised the treatment of advanced gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs). Imatinib is approved as first line therapy and sunitinib is used in cases of imatinib resistance or intolerance. Compared with conventional treatments, TKIs are delivered over longer periods of time and are more specific in their targets (i.e., molecularly targeted), thus presenting different side effect profiles. We review the safety profiles of imatinib and sunitinib, documenting a total of 95 side effects including patient based as well as medically defined outcomes. Gastrointestinal complaints, particularly diarrhoea and nausea, oedema, fatigue and haematological disorders, notably anaemia, are amongst the most prevalent side effects. While there is overlap between the side effect profiles of imatinib and sunitinib, important differences emerge in the frequencies of oedema, hypertension, thyroid functioning, muscle and joint pains, as well as skin and oral conditions. Awareness of potential side effects is informative to both clinician and patient in terms of treatment decision making and can have important implications for treatment adherence and clinical outcome.


Gleevec and heart damage
A successful cancer-fighting drug may also damage the heart. While effectively treating cancer, Gleevac can lead to heart failure in some patients, said Dr. Thomas Force, who teaches medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. His study, published in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine, was prompted by reports that 10 patients taking Gleevec for chronic myelogenous leukemia developed severe congestive heart failure. Gleevec, sold as Glivec in some countries, had worldwide sales of $1.2 billion in the first six months of 2006r, according to the manufacturer, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.


Gleevec and Pregnancy

Gleevec should not be given to women who are or could be pregnant, or who are breast-feeding. Please discuss these issues with your physician or nurse before beginning therapy with Gleevec.
   The majority of women who become pregnant while taking the cancer drug Gleevec, usually for a type of blood cancer called chronic myeloid leukemia, will probably have a successful outcome. However, there is a substantial risk of serious fetal malformations.

Blood and liver monitoring
During treatment with Gleevec, your physician will monitor your condition through blood tests. These tests are for measuring your blood counts and checking your liver function.

Gleevec and medications
The body metabolizes, or breaks down, many drugs in the liver with a specific group of proteins known as enzymes. When Gleevec is taken at the same time as other drugs, these enzymes may be forced to put the other drugs aside while they break down Gleevec. This can result in higher or lower than expected levels of the other drugs in the bloodstream. Similarly, certain drugs may force the enzymes to put Gleevec aside, which can result in higher or lower than expected levels of Gleevec in the bloodstream. These effects are known as drug-drug interactions. In particular, Tylenol ® (acetaminophen)*, birth control pills (oral contraceptives), blood thinners (especially warfarin, Coumadin ®+), herbal products (e.g., St. John's Wort), erythromycin, phenytoin (e.g., Dilantin ®‡, and anticonvulsants, are all broken down by the same enzymes that metabolize Gleevec. Drug-drug interactions may therefore occur with these medications.


Q. I am a 54 year old male diagnosed with Type1 Diabetes A1c  6.1, insulin. Depression, take Effexor 225 mg that took the brain pain away but I lost my Libido for the most part, have lost my drive (momentum) still think life has no meaning etc. etc. and think my quality of life stinks, To top it off 6 months ago I was diagnosed with ET (Essential Thrombocythemia) and am now taking Gleevec to keep my bone marrow healthy. My Oncologist (Hematologist) has no idea what the future has in store for me as far as the side affects of Gleevec might be or the outcome of my RAER blood dizzies as there’s no historical data to go by. By the way, Either the Gleevec or, the repairing the Gleevec did to my system affected my diabetes in a good way. With out trying much, my A1c went from 7.2 to 6.1 and I don’t have to use as much Insulin as I did before the Gleevec. Have you heard of a natural antidepressant called AMORYN made by BioNeurix and do you know if it works (I know you may not answer that one but I am getting desperate, so PLEASE) or do you have something along the same line to help with depression and the loss of my Libido. I would sure like to have a better, happier, fulfilling life before ET or Gleevec gets me. Can I take your Passion Rx with the Med’s I take now and if I switch to AMORYN or something you suggest can I still take Passion Rx.
   A. We are not familiar with Amoryn, and Gleevec has not been tested in combination with other drugs or supplements used for depression, so we don't know what the combinations would do or what kind of side effects there would be. You may wish to read the page on depression and discuss with your doctor your options. Passion Rx would improve libido, but we have not idea how it would interact with Gleevec and we are cautious mixing sexual herbs with Effexor. If your doctor approves, you could try a quarter of a capsule every other day.