Azacitidine

Other Names: Vidaza®

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About this Drug

Azacitidine is used to treat cancer. It is given in the vein (IV) or by a shot into your skin (subcutaneous injection). 

Possible Side Effects

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting)
  • Constipation (not able to move bowels)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea)
  • Weakness
  • Bruising
  • Skin and tissue irritation may involve redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the injection site.
  • Petechiae. Tiny red spots on the skin, often from low platelets.

Note: Each of the side effects above was reported in 30% or greater of patients treated with azacitidine. Not all possible side effects are included above. 

Warnings and Precautions

  • Changes in your liver function
  • Changes in your kidney function which can very rarely cause kidney failure and be life-threatening. 
  • Tumor lysis syndrome: This drug may act on the cancer cells very quickly. This may affect how your kidneys work. 

Important Information

  • 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. 

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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicines that are available to help stop or lessen constipation.
  • If you are not able to move your bowels, check with your doctor or nurse before you use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories.
  • Manage tiredness by pacing your activities for the day.
  • Be sure to include periods of rest between energy-draining activities.
  • To help decrease infections, wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have a cold, the flu, or other infections.
  • To help decrease bleeding, use a soft toothbrush. Check with your nurse before using dental floss.
  • Be very careful when using knives or tools.
  • Use an electric shaver instead of a razor.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are no known interactions of azacitidine 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. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's help.

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
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities<
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinkingand/or is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) 4 times a day or loose bowel movements with lack of strength or a feeling of being dizzy
  • No bowel movement in 3 days or when you feel uncomfortable.
  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the injection
  • Decreased or dark urine
  • 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
  • Signs of tumor lysis: Confusion or agitation, decreased urine, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramping, numbness and/or tingling, seizures.
  • If you think you may be pregnant or may have impregnated your partner

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 6 months after treatment. Men with female partners of child bearing potential should use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment and for 3 months after treatment. Let your doctor know right away if you think you may be pregnant or may have impregnated your partner.
  • Breastfeeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  Women should not breast feed during treatment and for 1 week 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 children.Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.

Revised January 2018 

This information is intended to provide helpful health information to the general public and is not to be used in place of any medical, health, psychological, or any other kind of personal professional services.  The information herein does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions of the medicines mentioned, nor is the information intended as medical advice for individual problems or for making an evaluation as to the risks and benefits of taking a particular medication.  The dose, method of administration and contraindications for any administered medication should be confirmed before use.  UPMC specifically disclaims all responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any medication mentioned herein.