Afatinib

Other Names: Gilotrif®

About This Drug

Afatinib is a drug used to treat cancer.  It is given orally (by mouth). 

Possible Side Effects

  • Nausea and vomiting (throwing up)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea)
  • Decreased appetite (hunger)
  • Rash
  • Acneiform dermatitis (pimple like rash)
  • Dry skin
  • Itching
  • Inflammation/infection of the tissue around your nails
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that hurt. 

Note: Each of the side effects above was reported in 20% or greater of patients treated with afatinib. Not all possible side effects are included above. 

Warnings and Precautions 

  • A severe rash with fluid-filled bumps/blisters
  • Inflammation (swelling) of the lungs. You may have a dry cough or trouble breathing. 
  • Changes in your liver function which rarely can lead to liver failure. Your liver function will be checked as needed. 
  • Severe diarrhea which can lead to dehydration (lack of water in the body from losing too much fluid.)
  • Blurred vision, eye irritation, sensitivity to light and/or other changes in eyesight. 

How to Take Your Medication

  • Take this drug by mouth without food, at least 1 hour before you eat or 2 hours after you eat.
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you think about it.  If it is within 12 hours to your next dose, then skip the missed dose and go back to your normal schedule.  Do not take 2 doses at the same time or extra doses.
  • Handling: Wash your hands after handling your medicine, your caretakers should not handle your medicine with bare hands and should wear latex gloves.
  • This drug may be present in the saliva, tears, sweat, urine, stool, vomit, semen, and vaginal secretions. Talk to your doctor and/or your nurse about the necessary precautions to take during this time.
  • Storage: Store this medicine in the original container at room temperature. Discuss with your nurse or your doctor how to dispose of unused medicine.

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink plenty of fluids (a minimum of eight glasses per day is recommended).
  • If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • If you get diarrhea, eat low-fiber foods that are high in protein and calories and avoid foods that can irritate your digestive tracts or lead to cramping.
  • Ask your nurse or doctor about medicine that can lessen or stop your diarrhea.
  • To help with nausea and vomiting, eat small, frequent meals instead of three large meals a day. Choose foods and drinks that are at room temperature. Ask your nurse or doctor about other helpful tips and medicine that is available to help or stop lessen these symptoms.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of routine, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after each meal and at bedtime.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that has alcohol. Also avoid alcohol and smoking because they can bother your mouth and throat.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Eat high caloric food such as pudding, ice cream, yogurt and milkshakes.
  • Avoid sun exposure and apply sunscreen routinely when outdoors.
  • Moisturize your skin several times day.
  • If you get a rash do not put anything on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are no known interactions of afatinib with food.
  • This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are taking at this time. 

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have any of these symptoms and/or any new or unusual symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Pain in your chest
  • Dry cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) 4 times a day or loose bowel movements with lack of strength or a feeling of being dizzy
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking  and/or is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
  • Lasting loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in a week
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities
  • New rash and/or itching
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Red or painful eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Signs of possible liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin
  • If you think you may be pregnant

Reproduction Warnings

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug can have harmful effects on the unborn baby. Women of child bearing potential should use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment and for at least 2 weeks after treatment. Let your doctor know right away if you think you may be pregnant. 
  • Breast feeding warning: Women should not breast feed during treatment and for 2 weeks after treatment because this drug could enter the breast milk and cause harm to a breast feeding baby. 
  • Fertility warning: In men and women both, this drug may affect your ability to have children in the future. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have chidlren. Ask for information on sperm or egg banking. 

Revised July 2017