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Nintedanib (Vargatef)

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

Nintedanib is a targeted cancer drug (biological therapy) and is also known by its brand name, Vargatef. 

It is a treatment for a type of non small cell lung cancer called adenocarcinoma. 

Nintedanib is for people who have already had 1 type of chemotherapy and whose cancer has grown back or has spread. You have it with a type of chemotherapy called docetaxel. 

You may also have nintedanib as part of clinical trials for other types of cancer. 

How it works

Nintedanib is a cancer growth blocker. It blocks particular proteins called protein kinases on the cancer cells. The protein kinases encourage the cancer to grow. Nintedanib blocks a number of these proteins and is called a multi kinase inhibitor. It also stops the cancer cells growing their own blood vessels, which the cells need to be able to grow.

Nintedanib may shrink the cancer or stop it growing for a time.

How you have it

Nintedanib is a capsule that you swallow whole with a glass of water. Do not crush or chew the capsules. You should take nintedanib with food. If you forget to take them don't take a double dose. Take your next dose as normal.

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 nintedanib two times a day, 12 hours apart. How many you take depends on your needs. Your doctor may change the dose during the treatment.

You take the capsules every day, except for 1 day every 3 weeks when you have docetaxel chemotherapy.

You usually keep taking it for as long as it is working, unless the side effects get too bad.

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.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


We don’t know how this treatment might affect 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.

Some men might be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Some women might be able to store eggs or embryos before treatment.


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

Treatment for other conditions

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


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 Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

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, you mustn't change their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination.

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

Slow wound healing

This drug can slow wound healing. If you need to have an operation you may need to stop taking it for a while beforehand. Your doctor will let you know when you can start taking it again.

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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