Abiraterone acetate (Zytiga®)

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About This Drug

Abiraterone acetate is used to treat cancer. It is given orally (by mouth).

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in the number of white blood cells and/or red blood cells. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue).
  • Diarrhea (loose bowel movements)
  • Nausea and vomiting (throwing up)
  • Tiredness
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles and/or feet
  • Hot flashes or sudden skin flushing may happen. You may also feel warm or red.
  • Changes in your liver function
  • Increase in your cholesterol level and triglycerides
  • Blood sugar levels may change
  • Low potassium
  • Pain in the joints
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • High blood pressure 
Note: Each of the side effects above was reported in 10% or greater of patients treated with abiraterone acetate. Not all possible side effects are included above.

Warnings and Precautions

  • Severe high blood pressure
  • Severe low potassium
  • Severe swelling and/or weight gain
  • Changes in your adrenal gland function
  • Changes in your liver function, which may be life-threatening 

Note: Some of the side effects above are very rare. If you have concerns and/or questions, please discuss them with your medical team.

Important Information

Abiraterone acetate is usually taken in combination with prednisone. Follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take your prednisone.

How to Take Your Medication

  • Swallow the medicine whole with water and without food, at least 1 hour before you eat or 2 hours after you eat. Do not crush or chew tablets.
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose of abiraterone acetate, take your next dose at the normal scheduled time. If you miss more than one dose, call your doctor.
  • Handling: Wash your hands after handling your medicine, your caretakers should not handle your medicine with bare hands and should wear latex gloves.
  • Women that are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant and/or that are breastfeeding should not handle your medicine without protection such as 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.
  • Disposal of unused medicine: Do not flush any expired and/or unused medicine down the toilet or drain unless you are specifically instructed to do so on the medication label. Some facilities have take-back programs and/or other options. If you do not have a take-back program in your area, then please discuss with your nurse or your doctor how to dispose of unused medicine.

Treating Side Effects

  • Manage tiredness by pacing your activities for the day.
  • Be sure to include periods of rest between energy-draining activities.
  • To decrease the risk of infection, wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have a cold, the flu, or other infections.
  • Take your temperature as your doctor or nurse tells you, and whenever you feel like you may have a fever.
  • 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 of water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • If you have 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.
  • If you have diabetes, keep good control of your blood sugar level. Tell your nurse or your doctor if your glucose levels are higher or lower than normal.
  • Keeping your pain under control is important to your well-being. Please tell your doctor or nurse if you are experiencing pain.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • Abiraterone should be taken on an empty stomach.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist about all other prescription or over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements or herbals you are taking before starting this medicine as there are known drug interactions with abiraterone acetate. Also, check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new prescription or over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements or herbals to make sure that there are no interactions. 

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 100.4° F (38° C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Coughing up yellow, green, or bloody mucus
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • A headache that does not go away
  • Blurry vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Tiredness that interferes with your daily activities
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Diarrhea, 4 times in one day or diarrhea with lack of strength or a feeling of being dizzy
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • 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
  • Pain that does not go away or is not relieved by prescribed medicine
  • Abnormal blood sugar
  • Unusual thirst, passing urine often, headache, sweating, shakiness, irritability
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week (fluid retention)
  • If you think you may have impregnated your partner

Reproduction Warnings

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug can have harmful effects on an unborn baby. Abiraterone acetate should not be used by women. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not take abiraterone acetate and should not handle abiraterone acetate without protection, such as gloves.
  • Men with female partners of childbearing potential should use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment and for 3 weeks after your cancer treatment. Let your doctor know right away if you think you may have impregnated your partner.
  • Breastfeeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. Abiraterone acetate should not be used by women and should not be used during breastfeeding.
  • Fertility warning: In men, 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 banking. 

Revised March 2019