Read about the biphosphonate drug zoledronic acid, how you have it and other important information about taking this drug.
What is it
Zoledronic acid is a type of drug known as a biphosphonate. It has the brand name Zometa.
It reduces the risk of fractures in cancers that affect the bones, such as:
- secondary breast cancer
- secondary prostate cancer
It also lowers high levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia), which can happen in secondary bone cancer.
How it works
Zoledronic acid attaches itself to bone cells and slows down the rate of bone change.
How you have it
Zoledronic acid is a clear liquid. You have it as a drip into your bloodstream (intravenously).
The drip usually lasts about 15 minutes, but you might have it over a longer period.
Drugs into your bloodstream
You have the treatment through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.
You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.
When you have it
Treatment to prevent bone damage
You have zoledronic acid every 3 to 4 weeks. You might need to take calcium and vitamine D supplements if you are having it regularly.
Treatment to reduce calcium levels
You have it as a single treatment to reduce the calcium levels in your blood.
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.
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.
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).
- 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
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.