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Vemurafenib (Zelboraf)

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

Vemurafenib (also called by its brand name Zelboraf) is a type of targeted cancer drug (a biological therapy) called a cancer growth blocker. It stops cells producing a protein called BRAF, which makes some cancer cells grow and divide. 

About half (about 50%) of all melanomas make too much BRAF proteins. This is due to a change in the BRAF gene.

Vemurafenib is used in people with melanoma whose cancer cells have a change in the BRAF gene. You have a test to check for the gene change before starting treatment with vemurafenib. 

How you have it

Vemurafenib comes as tablets. You take it twice a day, 12 hours apart. 

The usual dose is 4 tablets in the morning and 4 tablets in the evening. You swallow the tablets whole with a glass of water. It is best to take them with food, or shortly after eating. 

Taking your tablets or capsules

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

Whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream.

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 usually carry on taking vemurafenib for as long as it works 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 drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with this drug and for at least 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Breastfeeding

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.

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 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.

More information about this treatment

We haven't listed all the very rare side effects of this treatment. For further information see the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have that isn’t listed here to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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