cetuximab (Erbitux)

Brand Names: Erbitux

Generic Name: cetuximab

What is cetuximab (Erbitux)?

Cetuximab is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Cetuximab is used to treat cancers of the colon and rectum. It is also used to treat head and neck cancer.

Cetuximab is often used in combination with other cancer medicines or radiation treatment.

Cetuximab may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What are the possible side effects of cetuximab (Erbitux)?

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction (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 infusion. Tell your caregiver right away if you feel short of breath, weak or dizzy, nauseated, itchy, or have wheezing, noisy breathing, or a hoarse voice during the infusion.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • slow heart rate, weak pulse, fainting, slow breathing (breathing may stop);
  • sudden chest pain, wheezing, feeling short of breath;
  • dry cough, or coughing up blood;
  • fever, mouth sores, sore throat;
  • an acne-like skin rash or any severe skin rash;
  • redness or crusting around your hair follicles;
  • redness, warmth, or puffiness under your skin;
  • eye pain or redness, puffy eyelids, drainage or crusting in your eyes, vision problems, or increased sensitivity to light;
  • kidney problems--little or no urination, swelling in your feet or ankles; or
  • signs of an electrolyte imbalance--increased thirst or urination, confusion, vomiting, constipation, muscle pain or weakness, leg cramps, bone pain, lack of energy, irregular heartbeats, tingly feeling.

Common side effects may include:

  • mild itching or rash;
  • changes in your fingernails or toenails;
  • dry, cracked, or swollen skin;
  • headache;
  • diarrhea; or
  • infection.

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 is the most important information I should know about cetuximab (Erbitux)?

Cetuximab has caused life-threatening side effects in a small number of patients. Your caregivers will watch you closely after you receive each dose of this medicine.

Side effects may occur when this medicine is injected into your vein. Tell your caregiver right away if you feel dizzy, feverish, itchy, or short of breath during the infusion.

Cetuximab can have long lasting effects on your body. You may need frequent medical tests for a short time after you stop using this medicine.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before I receive cetuximab (Erbitux)?

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to cetuximab or to mouse protein.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Cetuximab may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 2 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

You should not breast-feed a baby while you are receiving cetuximab and for at least 2 months after your treatment ends. If you use a breast pump during this time, throw out any milk you collect. Do not feed it to your baby.

How is cetuximab given (Erbitux)?

Cetuximab 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 up to 2 hours to complete. You may be given other medications to help prevent serious side effects or allergic reaction.

Cetuximab is often used in combination with other cancer medications and/or radiation treatments. You may receive another cancer medicine 1 hour after your cetuximab infusion.

Cetuximab has caused life-threatening side effects in a small number of patients. After each cetuximab infusion, your caregivers will watch you closely to make sure you do not have any serious side effects.

Cetuximab is usually given until your body no longer responds to the medication. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

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.

Cetuximab can have long lasting effects on your body. You may need frequent medical tests for a short time after your last dose.

What happens if I miss a dose (Erbitux)?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your cetuximab infusion.

What happens if I overdose (Erbitux)?

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

What should I avoid while receiving cetuximab (Erbitux)?

Cetuximab could make you sunburn more easily. Avoid sunlight or tanning beds while you are receiving cetuximab and for at least 2 months after your treatment ends. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.

What other drugs will affect cetuximab (Erbitux)?

Other drugs may affect cetuximab, 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.

Where can I get more information (Erbitux)?

Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about cetuximab.


Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

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