Yervoy (ipilimumab)

Generic name: ipilimumab (IP i LIM ue mab)
Brand name: Yervoy
Drug class: Anti-CTLA-4 monoclonal antibodies

Yervoy (ipilimumab) is a cancer medicine that is used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat certain types of cancer such as:

  • skin cancer (melanoma);
  • non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC);
  • pleural mesothelioma (cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and chest wall);
  • kidney cancer;
  • liver cancer; or
  • colorectal cancer that has certain specific DNA mutations.

Yervoy is often given when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or cannot be surgically removed, or has come back after prior treatment.

Yervoy may prevent melanoma from coming back after surgery, including lymph node removal surgery.

Yervoy is given for NSCLC only if your tumor tests positive for "PD-L1" and does not have an abnormal "EGFR" or "ALK" (a specific genetic marker).


Serious and sometimes fatal reactions may occur during treatment with Yervoy, or months after stopping. Call your doctor at once if you have: chest pain, cough, shortness of breath, vision changes, severe muscle pain or weakness, diarrhea and severe stomach pain, blood in your stools, little or no urinating, swelling, bruising or bleeding, dark urine, yellowing of the skin or eyes, confusion, hallucinations, a seizure, skin blistering, or a hormonal disorder (frequent headaches, feeling light-headed, increased thirst or urination, feeling cold, weight gain or loss).

Before you receive Yervoy, tell your doctor if you have liver damage, an autoimmune disorder such as lupus or sarcoidosis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or if you have received an organ transplant.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using Yervoy.

Before taking this medicine

You should not receive Yervoy if you are allergic to ipilimumab.

To make sure Yervoy is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • liver problems;
  • an autoimmune disorder (lupus, sarcoidosis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis); or
  • an organ transplant or stem cell transplant.

You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment.

Ipilimumab may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 3 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

If you are pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry to track the effects of ipilimumab on the baby.

Do not breastfeed while using this medicine, and for at least 3 months after your last dose.

Yervoy is not approved for use by anyone younger than 12 years old. For some types of cancer, Yervoy is used only in adults.

How is Yervoy given?

Yervoy is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

This medicine must be given slowly, and the infusion can take 30-90 minutes to complete.

Yervoy is usually given once every 3 to 6 weeks. Your other cancer medications may be given more often. Your doctor will determine how long to treat you with all medicines.

You may be given other medications to treat or prevent certain side effects.

You may need frequent medical tests to be sure this medicine is not causing harmful effects. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss a chemotherapy appointment.

What happens if I overdose?

Since Yervoy is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid while receiving Yervoy?

Follow your doctor's instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Yervoy side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Yervoy (hives, difficult breathing, swelling in your face or throat) or a severe skin reaction (fever, sore throat, burning eyes, skin pain, red or purple skin rash with blistering and peeling).

Some side effects may occur during the injection. Tell your caregiver if you feel dizzy, light-headed, short of breath, itchy, tingly, chilled, or feverish.

Serious and sometimes fatal reactions may occur during treatment with Yervoy or months after stopping. Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms such as:

  • severe or ongoing diarrhea, severe stomach pain, bloody or tarry stools;
  • fever, swollen glands, body aches;
  • new or worsening skin rash, itching, or blistering;
  • chest pain, irregular heartbeats;
  • severe muscle weakness, ongoing pain in your muscles or joints;
  • numbness or tingling in your hands or feet;
  • vision problems, eye pain or redness;
  • lung problems - new or worsening cough, chest pain, feeling short of breath;
  • kidney problems - little or no urination, swelling in your feet or ankles, blood in your urine;
  • liver problems - right-sided upper stomach pain, tiredness, bruising or bleeding, dark urine, yellowing of your skin or eyes;
  • signs of a hormonal disorder - frequent or unusual headaches, lack of energy, dizziness, fainting, mood or behavior changes, increased thirst or urination, feeling cold, weight gain, or weight loss; or
  • symptoms of brain swelling - confusion, headache, memory problems, hallucinations, neck stiffness, drowsiness, seizure (convulsions).

Your cancer treatments may be delayed or permanently discontinued if you have certain side effects.

Common Yervoy side effects may include:

  • fever, cough, shortness of breath;
  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite;
  • diarrhea, constipation;
  • weight loss;
  • hormonal problems;
  • rash or itching;
  • headache, dizziness, tiredness;
  • sleep problems (insomnia); or
  • pain in your muscles, joints, or bones.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Yervoy?

Other drugs may interact with ipilimumab, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.