erlotinib, Tarceva

  • 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 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 the dosage for erlotinib?

The usual dose of erlotinib is 150 mg daily for NSCLC and 100 mg daily for pancreatic cancer. Erlotinib should be taken on an empty stomach at least one hour before or two hours after eating because food may reduce the absorption of erlotinib.

Which drugs or supplements interact with erlotinib?

CYP3A4 is an enzyme in the liver that breaks-down and helps to eliminate erlotinib from the body. Drugs that inhibit CYP3A4 can result in high levels of erlotinib in the body, and the high levels can result in toxicity from erlotinib. Such drugs include atazanavir (Reyataz), clarithromycin (Biaxin), indinavir (Crixivan), itraconazole (Sporanox), ketoconazole (Nizoral), nefazodone (Serzone), nelfinavir (Viracept), ritonavir (Norvir), saquinavir (Invirase; Fortovase), telithromycin (Ketek), and voriconazole (VFEND). In patients receiving these drugs, a lower dose of erlotinib may be needed to prevent toxicity.

Some drugs increase the elimination of erlotinib by increasing the activity of CYP3A4 enzymes. This reduces the levels of erlotinib in the body and may reduce its effect. Examples of such drugs include rifampicin (Rifadin), rifabutin (Mycobutin), rifapentine (Priftin), phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenobarbital and St. John's Wort. These drugs should be avoided in patients taking erlotinib, if possible. If alternative drugs are not an option, higher doses of erlotinib may be required.

Cigarette smoking also reduces the concentration of erlotinib in the blood. Patients are advised to quit smoking.

Drugs that reduce the production of acid in the stomach will reduce the absorption of erlotinib. Therefore, proton pump inhibitors (PPI's, for example, omeprazole [Prilosec, Zegerid]) should not be administered with erlotinib, and erlotinib should be administered 10 hours before H2-receptor blockers (for example, ranitidine [Zantac]) or two hours after taking the H2-receptor blocker.

Administration of antacids should be separated from administration of erlotinib by several hours.

Erlotinib has been associated with increased risk of bleeding, especially in patients also taking warfarin (Coumadin). Patients taking warfarin should be monitored closely.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2015

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