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Lenalidomide (Revlimid)

Find out what lenalidomide is, how you have it and other important information about taking lenalidomide. 

Lenalidomide is a cancer drug and is also known by its brand name, Revlimid.

It is a treatment for myeloma and blood disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes. You may also have it as part of clinical trials for other types of cancer.

For myeloma, you might have lenalidomide with a steroid drug called dexamethasone. Or with a chemotherapy called melphalan and dexamethasone.

How it works

Researchers are still finding out exactly how lenalidomide works. It affects all sorts of cell processes, including how cells divide and grow.

We know that it interferes with chemicals that cells use to signal to each other to grow. It affects how the immune system works and is called an immunomodulatory agent. It also stops tumours making their own blood vessels. To develop, all cancers need a blood supply.

How you have it

Lenalidomide comes as capsules that you take with a glass of water. You need to swallow them whole. Don’t break or chew them. You should take lenalidomide at the same time every day.

You can take the capsules with or without food.

Taking your capsules

You must take capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

Never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.

When you have it

You take lenalidomide every day for 3 weeks and then have a break for 1 week. This is one cycle of treatment. You then start the next cycle. 

If you forget to take lenalidomide at your regular time but less than 12 hours have passed, take the capsule straight away. If more than 12 hours have passed do not take the capsule but just take your next capsule at the usual time the next day. 

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines, foods and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Lactose intolerance

This drug contains lactose (milk sugar). If you have intolerance to lactose, contact your doctor before taking this medicine.

Pregnancy and contraception

Lenalidomide can cause birth defects in children. So you must not become pregnant or father a child while taking this drug. Your doctor will talk to you about effective methods of contraception before you have the treatment. Some people worry about taking lenalidomide but it doesn’t cause physical defects in adults.

Because lenalidomide causes birth defects, your doctor will talk to you before you start treatment. They will make sure that you understand the risks of taking lenalidomide and agree to use contraception:

  • for 4 weeks before you start treatment
  • during treatment
  • for 4 weeks after you finish treatment

Women also need to have pregnancy tests every 4 weeks while having treatment and 4 weeks afterwards.

Men with a female partner who could become pregnant should use condoms during sex for the time they are having treatment and for a week after finishing treatment. 

Pregnant women should not touch or handle lenalidomide. You must store it in a place where pregnant women or children cannot reach it.

Fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for others conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Donating blood

You should not donate blood during treatment and for 1 week afterwards.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine
  • be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.

You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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