Generic Name: cytarabine

What is cytarabine?

Cytarabine is used together with other cancer drugs to treat certain types of leukemia (blood cancers).

Cytarabine is also used to treat or prevent leukemia associated with meningitis. Cytarabine will not treat a meningitis infection.

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

What are the possible side effects of cytarabine?

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

Cytarabine can cause serious side effects on your brain or central nervous system that may not be reversible. Cytarabine is usually given together with steroid medicine to help lessen these side effects.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe drowsiness, confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior;
  • fever, chills, body aches, feeling very ill;
  • stomach pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, bloody or tarry stools;
  • loss of movement in any part of your body;
  • liver problems--loss of appetite, right-sided upper stomach pain, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • low platelets or red blood cells--pale skin, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, tiredness, feeling light-headed, cold hands and feet;
  • lung problems--pain when you breathe, shortness of breath while lying down, cough with foamy mucus; or
  • signs of eye infection--swelling, redness, severe discomfort, crusting or drainage;

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

Common side effects may include:

  • liver problems;
  • fever;
  • bleeding;
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea;
  • mouth sores;
  • rectal pain or sores;
  • rash; or
  • bruising where medicine was injected.

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 cytarabine?

Cytarabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or new signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches).

Cytarabine can cause serious side effects on your brain or central nervous system that may not be reversible. Tell your doctor if you have feel confused or have any unusual thoughts or behavior.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before receiving cytarabine?

You should not be treated with cytarabine if you are allergic to it.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Cytarabine may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

You should not breastfeed while you are receiving cytarabine.

How is cytarabine given?

Cytarabine is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein, under the skin, or into the space around the spinal cord. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Cytarabine is usually given for only a few days at a time. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

After receiving an injection, you will be watched closely to make sure you do not have serious side effects.

Cytarabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection. You will need frequent medical tests.


What is leukemia? See Answer

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your cytarabine injection.

What happens if I overdose?

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

What should I avoid while receiving cytarabine?

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

What other drugs will affect cytarabine?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may affect cytarabine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about cytarabine.

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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Reviewed on 3/17/2022

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