Irinotecan (Injection)


Irinotecan (ir-in-oh-TEE-kan)

Treats cancer, including cancer of the colon or rectum.

Brand Name(s)

Amerinet Choice Irinotecan Hydrochloride, Camptosar, Novaplus Camptosar

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

How to Use This Medicine


  • 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.
  • You will receive this medicine while you are in a hospital or cancer treatment center. A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
  • Your doctor will prescribe your dose and schedule. This medicine is given through a needle placed in a vein. Irinotecan is given slowly, so the IV will remain in place for about 90 minutes.
  • Missed dose: This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose, call your doctor, home health caregiver, or treatment clinic for instructions.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

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

  • Do not use St John's wort for at least 2 weeks before your first cycle of irinotecan and while you are receiving it. Do not use ketoconazole for at least 1 week before your first cycle of irinotecan and while you are receiving it.
  • Some medicines can affect how irinotecan works. Tell your doctor if you are using the following:
    • atazanavir
    • medicine to treat seizures (carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin)
    • rifabutin
    • rifampin
  • This medicine may interfere with vaccines. Ask your doctor before you get a flu shot or any other vaccines.

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.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, Gilbert syndrome, lung problems, severe bone marrow disease, low white blood cell count, any type of infection, or an enzyme problem called reduced UGT1A1 activity.
  • This medicine often causes diarrhea. Diarrhea can begin while you receive a dose of medicine or shortly after the dose, or it may occur more than 24 hours later. Your doctor may give you medicine to treat diarrhea. Follow instructions carefully.
  • This medicine can cause the following problems:
    • Kidney problems
    • Lung problems
  • This medicine may make you dizzy or cause vision problems. Do not drive or do anything that could be dangerous if you are dizzy, drowsy, or not able to see well.
  • 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.
  • Cancer medicines can cause nausea and/or vomiting in most people, sometimes even after receiving medicines to prevent it. Ask your doctor or nurse about other ways to control these side effects.
  • 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
  • Decrease in how much or how often you urinate
  • Fever, chills, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and body aches
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, unusual drowsiness, or fainting
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands, arms, legs, or feet
  • Runny nose, watery eyes, stomach cramps, slow heartbeat
  • Severe diarrhea (may be watery, bloody, or black), stomach pain or cramping, red or black stools
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath, fever, cough, or wheezing
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising, or weakness
  • Yellow skin or eyes

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

  • Constipation, gas, upset stomach, or enlarged abdomen
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Increased sweating
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Redness, pain, or swelling where the needle is placed
  • Skin rash
  • Trouble sleeping

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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