Imatinib (By mouth)


Imatinib (i-ma-TIN-ib)

Treats certain types of leukemia. Also treats gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) or myeloproliferative disease (MPD), aggressive systemic mastocytosis (ASM), hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES), and dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP).

Brand Name(s)


When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

How to Use This Medicine

Capsule, Tablet

  • Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
  • Take your medicine as directed.
  • It is best to take this medicine with food and a large glass of water.
  • Swallow the tablet whole. Do not break or crush it.
  • If you are not able to swallow the tablet, you may dissolve the tablet in a glass of water or apple juice. If you are taking the 100 milligram tablet, dissolve it in 50 milliliters or 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of water or juice. If you are taking the 400 milligram tablet, dissolve it in 200 milliliters or 7 ounces (about 1 cup) of water or juice. Stir with a spoon and drink immediately after the tablet has dissolved.
  • Be careful not to handle crushed or broken tablets. Wash your skin with soap and clear water right away if you touch broken or crushed tablets.

If a dose is missed:

  • Take a dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and take a regular dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any leftover medicine after you have finished your treatment. You will also need to throw away old medicine after the expiration date has passed.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you use medicine to treat bacterial infections (such as clarithromycin, erythromycin, telithromycin, Biaxin®, Ery-Tab®, E-Mycin®, or Ketek®), medicine to treat fungal infections (such as itraconazole, ketoconazole, voriconazole, Nizoral®, Sporanox®, or Vfend®), or medicine to treat HIV or AIDS (such as atazanavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, saquinavir, Crixivan®, Fortovase®, Invirase®, Norvir®, Reyataz®, or Viracept®).
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you also use acetaminophen (Tylenol®), alfentanil (Alfenta®), cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®), dexamethasone (Decadron®, Hexadrol®), fentanyl (Sublimaze®), nefazodone (Serzone®), pimozide (Orap®), quinidine (Quinaglute®), rifabutin (Mycobutin®), rifampin (Rifadin®, Rimactane®), sirolimus (Rapamune®), tacrolimus (Protopic®), ergot medicines (such as dihydroergotamine, ergotamine, Migranal®, Ergomar®, or Ergostat®), medicine for nerves or sleeping (such as alprazolam, estazolam, triazolam, Halcion®, Luminal®, Prosom®, or Xanax®), or medicine for seizures (such as carbamazepine, fosphenytoin, oxcarbazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone, Carbatrol®, Cerebyx®, Dilantin®, Mysoline®, Solfoton®, or Tegretol®).
  • Tell your doctor if you also use St John's wort, medicines to lower cholesterol (such as lovastatin, simvastatin, Lescol®, Lipitor®, Pravachol®, or Zocor®), certain blood pressure medicines (such as amlodipine, diltiazem, felodipine, nifedipine, verapamil, Cartia®, Lotrel®, Norvasc®, Plendil®, or Tiazac®), or a blood thinner (such as warfarin, Coumadin®).
  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are using this medicine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, anemia, bleeding problems, edema (fluid retention), heart disease, congestive heart failure, lung disease, stomach or bowel problems, or an underactive thyroid.
  • Check with your doctor immediately if you have swelling or rapid weight, chest pain or uneven heartbeat, trouble breathing, or extreme tiredness or weakness. These may be symptoms of heart problems or your body retaining too much water.
  • Check with your doctor right away if you have stomach pain, pale stools or dark urine, loss of appetite, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.
  • Serious skin reactions can occur with this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have blistering or peeling skin, a rash, sores, or fever or chills.
  • This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. Avoid people who are ill, and wash your hands often. Brush and floss your teeth gently, do not play rough sports, and be careful with sharp objects.
  • This medicine may cause slow growth in children. The doctor will need to keep track of your child's height and weight to make sure that your child is growing properly.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have less urine than normal, swelling in your feet or legs, or stomach, joint, or back pain. These may be symptoms of a serious reaction called tumor lysis syndrome.
  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy or cause blurry vision. Do not drive, use machines, or do anything that could be dangerous until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Blistering, peeling, or red skin rash
  • Bloody or black, tarry stools
  • Chest pain, dizziness, or fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat
  • Dark-colored urine or pale stools
  • Decrease in how much or how often you urinate
  • Fever, chills, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and body aches
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or severe pain in your upper stomach
  • Rapid weight gain or swelling in your face, hands, ankles, or feet
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • Yellow skin or eyes

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Mild skin rash or itching
  • Muscle or joint pain

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/4/2014

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