aldesleukin, Proleukin (cont.)
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.
Medical and Pharmacy Editor:
PREGNANCY: It is not known whether aldesleukin can cause harm to the fetus. Because of it known side effects, the manufacturer recommends that it only be given to pregnant women using extreme caution.
NURSING MOTHERS: It is not known whether aldesleukin is excreted in breast milk. Because of it known side effects, the manufacturer recommends that it only be given to pregnant women using extreme caution.
SIDE EFFECTS: Aldesleukin causes side effects in almost every organ. Because of these side effects, aldesleukin only can be given to patients who are physically and mentally able to tolerate them. Most of the side effects are due to "capillary leak" which begins immediately after treatment is started. Capillary leak results in the leakage of proteins out of blood. This causes a loss of fluid from the blood, a decrease in the volume of blood, and a decrease in blood pressure. The decrease in blood pressure can be dramatic and even result in death. More than two-thirds of patients require injectable medications to treat the low blood pressure.
Other problems associated with capillary leak include congestion in the lungs, difficulty breathing (which can occur in one-half of patients), wheezing, respiratory failure (1 out of every 11 patients), and swelling due to fluid accumulation in various tissues in the body (half of all patients). Abnormal heart rhythms occur in 1 out of every 12 patients, and heart attacks in 1 out of every 50. Bleeding from the stomach, intestines, and kidney or liver damage also can occur. Moreover, between two-thirds and three-fourths of all patients receiving aldesleukin develop kidney damage. Most of the side effects caused by capillary leak begin to resolve a few hours after stopping aldesleukin therapy.
Three-fourths of all patients receiving aldesleukin have mental changes including paranoia and hallucinations. Drowsiness, sleep disturbances, headache, fatigue, weakness, malaise, loss of appetite, visual changes, and alterations or loss of taste sensation also occur.
Between 20% and 50% of patients develop hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) which usually requires replacement with thyroid drugs, for example, levothyroxine (Synthroid; Levoxyl). Anemia occurs in 3 out of every 4 patients and may necessitate blood transfusions. A low platelet count (increasing the risk of bleeding) occurs in two-thirds of patients, and low white blood cell count in one-third. Infection may occur in one-quarter of treated patients and possibly lead to death. Itching occurs in half of all patients and rash in one-quarter. Occasionally, rashes can be severe. Generalized pain occurs in one-half of all patients. Gastrointestinal side effects occur frequently. Nausea or vomiting occur in 7 out of every 8 patients, diarrhea in 3 out of every 4, ulcerations of the mouth in 1 out of every 3, and abdominal pain or constipation in less than 1 out of every 10. Liver tests become abnormal in 3 out of every 5 persons who receives aldesleukin and jaundice in 1 out of every 9.
Reference: FDA Prescribing Information
Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2013
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