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Zoledronic acid (Zometa)

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:  

  • myeloma
  • 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.

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.

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, pharmacists 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 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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