capecitabine, Xeloda

  • Pharmacy Author:
    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: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is capecitabine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Capecitabine is an oral medication for treating advanced breast cancer that is resistant to combination therapy with the drugs of choice, paclitaxel (Taxol) and a drug from the anthracycline family of drugs, for example, doxorubicin (Adriamycin). Capecitabine is converted by the body to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), a drug which has been given intravenously for many years to treat various types of cancer. It is not surprising, therefore, that capecitabine also is effective in the treatment of colorectal cancer, a type of cancer that is treated frequently with 5-FU. 5-FU inhibits the production by the cancerous cells of both DNA and protein that are necessary for the cells to divide and the cancer to grow in size. Capecitabine was approved by the FDA in 1998 for the treatment of breast cancer and in 2005 for the treatment of colorectal cancer.

What brand names are available for capecitabine?

Xeloda

Is capecitabine available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: No

Do I need a prescription for capecitabine?

Yes

What are the side effects of capecitabine?

The most common side effects with capecitabine are:

  • diarrhea,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • painful swelling of the mouth,
  • fatigue,
  • painful rash and
  • swelling of the hands or feet,
  • low white blood cell count (which can lead to infections),
  • low blood platelet counts (which can lead to bleeding), and
  • anemia.

Other important side effects experienced by some patients include:

  • heart attacks,
  • chest pain, and
  • abnormal heart beats.

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