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Generic NameBrand Name
fludarabineFludara, Oforta

Fludarabine is available as an oral and intravenous (IV) medicine.

How It Works

Fludarabine is an antimetabolite medicine. It causes cell death by interfering with the way genetic material (DNA) in the cell multiplies.

Why It Is Used

Fludarabine is used in combination with other medicines to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL).

How Well It Works

Fludarabine is an effective treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that has not responded to other types of chemotherapy, such as chlorambucil or cyclophosphamide. Studies are ongoing to find out the safety and effectiveness of fludarabine in people who have not received other types of chemotherapy or who are responding to other types of chemotherapy.

Side Effects

Side effects are common with fludarabine and can include:

  • Severe rapid destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia).
  • Decreased platelet counts (thrombocytopenia), which may lead to bleeding in the digestive tract, causing tarry stools.
  • Joint pain.
  • Blood in urine or stools.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cough, wheezing, hoarseness, or shortness of breath.
  • Confusion.
  • Fever or chills.
  • General feeling of discomfort or illness (malaise).
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis).
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Painful, burning, or difficult urination.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Hair loss (uncommon side effect).

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Fludarabine should be given only under the supervision of a medical oncologist or hematologist.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Fludarabine can cause birth defects. Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or if you wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.

Fludarabine can interact with many other medicines. Be sure that your doctor has a complete list of all prescription and nonprescription medicines you are taking.

Do not drink alcoholic beverages or take medicines containing aspirin while being treated with fludarabine, because these can cause bleeding from your stomach.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerDouglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last RevisedMarch 29, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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