Gemzar (gemcitabine)

Generic name: gemcitabine (jem SYE ta been)
Brand name: Gemzar
Drug class: Antimetabolites

Gemzar (gemcitabine) is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Gemzar is used to treat cancers of the pancreas, lung, ovary, and breast.

Gemzar is sometimes given with other cancer medicines, or when other cancer treatments did not work or have stopped working.


Gemzar can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or new signs of infection (fever, chills, tiredness, bruising or bleeding, pale skin).

Gemzar can also affect your liver, kidneys, or lungs. Tell your doctor if you have stomach pain, dark urine, yellow skin or eyes, little or no urinating, swelling, rapid weight gain, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, or cough with foamy mucus.

If you receive gemcitabine during or after radiation treatment, tell your doctor right away if you have severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling.

Before receiving Gemzar

You should not use Gemzar if you are allergic to gemcitabine.

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

  • kidney disease;
  • liver disease (especially cirrhosis);
  • alcoholism; or
  • radiation treatment.

Both men and women using Gemzar should use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy. Gemcitabine can harm an unborn baby if the mother or father is using this medicine.

  • If you are a woman, do not use Gemzar if you are pregnant. You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 6 months after your last dose.
  • If you are a man, use effective birth control if your sex partner is able to get pregnant. Keep using birth control for at least 3 months after your last dose.
  • Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is using gemcitabine.

Gemzar may affect fertility (ability to have children) in men. However, it is important to use birth control to prevent pregnancy because gemcitabine can harm an unborn baby.

You should not breastfeed while you are using gemcitabine, and for at least 1 week after your last dose.

How is Gemzar used?

Gemzar is injected into a vein as an IV infusion. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when Gemzar is injected.

If any Gemzar injection accidentally gets on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Gemcitabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection by changing the way your immune system works. You will need frequent medical tests.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Contact your doctor if you miss a miss an appointment to receive your Gemzar infusion.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid?

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding or injury.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using Gemzar, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Gemcitabine can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Gemzar side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any signs of an allergic reaction to Gemzar: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

If you receive Gemzar during or after radiation treatment, tell your doctor right away if you have severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • headache, confusion, change in mental status, vision loss, seizure (convulsions);
  • blisters or ulcers in your mouth, red or swollen gums, trouble eating or swallowing;
  • severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling during or after radiation treatment;
  • liver problems - loss of appetite, stomach pain (upper right side), itching, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • low blood cell counts - fever, chills, tiredness, skin sores, cold mhands and feet, feeling light-headed;
  • fluid build-up in or around the lungs - pain when you breathe, feeling short of breath while lying down, wheezing, gasping for breath, cough with foamy mucus, cold, clammy skin, anxiety, rapid heartbeats; or
  • signs of damaged red blood cells - unusual bruising or bleeding, pale skin, bloody diarrhea, red or pink urine, swelling, rapid weight gain, and little or no urination.

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

Common Gemzar side effects may include:

  • fever;
  • nausea, vomiting;
  • low blood cell counts;
  • abnormal blood or urine tests;
  • shortness of breath;
  • swelling in your hands or feet;
  • mild rash; or
  • red or pink urine.

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 Gemzar?

Other drugs may interact with Gemzar, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.