• 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?


Is capecitabine available as a generic drug?


Do I need a prescription for capecitabine?


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.

What is the dosage for capecitabine?

The recommended dose is 1250 mg/m2 twice daily, with the two doses approximately 12 hours apart. Tablets should be taken 30 minutes after eating. Capecitabine usually is prescribed in repeated cycles of 3-weeks, with the drug taken for two consecutive weeks followed by a week without drug. Some patients may need lower or delayed dosing if there are side effects.

Is capecitabine safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?

Capecitabine can damage the fetus. It should not be taken by pregnant women.

It is not known whether capecitabine is secreted into breast milk.

What else should I know about capecitabine?

What preparations of capecitabine are available?

Tablets: 150 and 500 mg.

How should I keep capecitabine stored?

Tablets should be stored at room temperature, 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F).


Capecitabine (Xeloda) is a drug prescribed for to treat women with breast cancer that has metastasized to other tissues, and is more resistant to other commonly used drugs. Side effects, drug interactions, and pregnancy safety information should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.

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See more info: capecitabine on RxList
Reference: FDA Prescribing Information