Find out what afatinib is, how you have it and other important information about taking afatinib.
Afatinib (pronounced aff-a-tin-ib) is a cancer treatment drug and is also known by its brand name Giotrif (pronounced jee-oh-triff).
It is a treatment for lung cancer.
How it works
Afatinib is a type of cancer growth blocker called a protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Tyrosine kinases are proteins that stimulate cells to grow. Afatinib blocks tyrosine kinases and also blocks epidermal growth factor receptor proteins in cancer cells. So afatinib is also called an EGFR-TK inhibitor.
Your doctor will check your cancer cells to see if they have these receptors. Cancers that have these receptors are called EGFR-TK positive.
How you have it
Afatinib is a tablet. You swallow it whole with a glass of water.
You can dissolve afatinib in a glass of still water if you have difficulty swallowing tablets. Don’t use any other type of liquid. Drop the tablet into the water without crushing it. Stir it occasionally for up to 15 minutes until the tablet has broken up into very small particles. Drink it straight away. Fill the glass again with water and drink it to make sure you take the whole dose.
When you have it
You take afatinib once a day on an empty stomach. You take them at least one hour before eating or 3 hours after eating.
You usually carry on taking it for as long as it is still working, unless the side effects get too bad.
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.
Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.
You have blood tests before 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 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 a month afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
It is unknown whether this treatment affects fertility in people. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.
Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through into 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.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and shingles vaccine (Zostavax).
- have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- have the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections
Avoid close contact with people who’ve recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as oral polio or the typhoid vaccine.
This also includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s poo for up to 2 weeks and could 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 should also avoid close contact with children who have had the flu vaccine nasal spray if your immune system is severely weakened.
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.