Find out what fludarabine is, how you have it and other important information about having fludarabine.
What it is
Fludarabine is a chemotherapy drug and has the brand name Fludara.
Fludarabine is mainly used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). It may also be used in trials for low grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), hairy cell leukaemia, acute myeloid leukaemia and a type of lymphoma that affects the skin called mycosis fungoides.
How fludarabine works
Fludarabine is one of a group of chemotherapy drugs known as anti metabolites. These stop cells making and repairing DNA. Cancer cells need to make and repair DNA in order to grow and multiply.
How you have fludarabine
You have fludarabine into the bloodstream or as tablets called Fludara oral.
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.
Taking your tablets or capsules
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.
Swallow them whole with plenty of water. Don't chew or break them. You can take them on an empty stomach or with food.
When you have fludarabine
You usually have the treatment once a day for 5 consecutive days each month if you have it as a drip. You take the tablets once a day for 5 consecutive days each month.
You usually keep having fludarabine treatment until there is little or no sign of the abnormal leukaemia or lymphoma cells in your blood. This may be between 6 months and 2 years.
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.
Your doctor will adjust the dose depending on how well the treatment is working. They may lower the dose or stop the treatment if it causes bad side effects.
Find out about possible side effects of fludarabine and what to do if you have them.
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.
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.
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).
- 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.