Afinitor side effects and how to avoid them
Afinitor is an FDA-approved brand-name medication manufactured by Novartis. It is classified as a kinase inhibitor and is used for cancer treatment. While Afinitor is generally well tolerated, there are some potential side effects that people should be aware of. The most common side effects of Afinitor include joint pain and tiredness. Less common but more serious side effects can include kidney failure.
Learn more about the side effects of Afinitor and what you can do to avoid them.
What is Afinitor (everolimus)?
Afinitor is a kinase inhibitor used to treat:
- Postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer in combination with exemestane after treatment with letrozole or anastrozole have failed
- Adults with progressive neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas and adults with progressive, well-differentiated, non-functional neuroendocrine tumors of gastrointestinal or lung origin that are unresectable, locally advanced, or metastatic
- Adults with advanced renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), after treatment with sunitinib or sorafenib, have failed
- Adults with renal angiomyolipoma and tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) not requiring immediate surgery
Afinitor is available in tablet form in the following doses: 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 7.5 mg, and 10 mg. It is also available as Afinitor Disperz for oral suspension in the following doses: 2 mg, 3 mg, and 5 mg.
Afinitor and Afinitor Disperz should not be used together to achieve the daily dose.
- Breast cancer – 10 mg orally once daily
- Non-functional neuroendocrine tumors – 10 mg orally once daily
- Advanced renal cell carcinoma – 10 mg orally once daily
- TSC-Associated Renal Angiomyolipoma – 10 mg orally once daily
- TSC-Associated SEGA – 4.5 mg/m2 orally once daily
- TSC-Associated Partial-Onset Seizures – 5 mg/m2 orally once daily
Modify the dose for patients with hepatic impairment or for patients taking drugs that inhibit or induce P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and CYP3A4.
If you forget to take your medicine, take it as soon as you remember. If more than 6 hours have passed since you took your last dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time. Store Afinitor in the original container at room temperature, away from light and moisture.
You are advised to read the medication guide provided with this medicine for drug information and patient information. Always speak with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any changes to your dose so they can monitor and evaluate your condition.
What are the most common side effects of Afinitor?
The most common side effects of Afinitor include the following:
- Stomatitis – use dexamethasone alcohol-free mouthwash when starting treatment
- Dry mouth, mouth sores, or mouth ulcers
- Signs of infection – fever, chills, tiredness, joint pain, skin rash, dry skin
- Abdominal pain, decreased appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, nausea
- Cough, sore throat, headache
- High blood sugar
- High cholesterol and triglycerides
What are the long-term side effects of Afinitor?
Afinitor can cause more serious long-term side effects, including:
- Lung problems, such as shortness of breath, trouble breathing, and chest pain
- Non-Infectious pneumonitis
- Life-threatening hypersensitivity reactions
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Impaired wound healing
- Metabolic disorders – monitor serum glucose and lipids before and during treatment
- Decreased red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets
- May rarely cause serious liver disease in people who have hepatitis B virus. Symptoms of liver damage include dark urine, persistent nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and yellow eyes and skin
If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop taking Afinitor and seek medical attention immediately. You are encouraged to report the negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Afinitor drug interactions
Afinitor can interact with other medications, including:
- Other drugs that weaken the immune system – natalizumab, rituximab
- ACE inhibitors – captopril, lisinopril
- Azole antifungals – itraconazole, ketoconazole
- Macrolide antibiotics – clarithromycin, erythromycin
- St. John’s wort
- Risk of infection or reduced immune response with vaccination. Avoid live vaccines and close contact with those who have received live vaccines
- Grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice
This list is not exhaustive, and other prescription drugs may interact with Afinitor Disperz. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Afinitor warnings & precautions
Don’t take Afinitor if you:
- Are allergic to the active ingredient everolimus or to other rapamycin derivatives such as sirolimus and temsirolimus
- Have had an allergic reaction to any of the other ingredients in Afinitor
- Are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant – Embryo-fetal toxicity (can cause harm to an unborn baby). Female patients are advised to use birth control during treatment and for at least 8 weeks after the last dose
Talk to your doctor before using Afinitor if you:
- Are taking any of the medications that could interact with Afinitor
- Have any kidney problems
- Have liver problems
- Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed – It’s not known if this drug passes into breast milk
You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Afinitor, to make sure it is safe for you.
What Foods should I avoid while taking Afinitor?
Grapefruit juice may increase blood levels of Afinitor. Do not drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruits while receiving treatment with Afinitor.
What is my Life expectancy on Afinitor?
Afinitor treatment has not been shown to increase life expectancy.
Is Afinitor chemotherapy?
Afinitor is not a type of chemotherapy. Afinitor is classed as a mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitor and is a targeted therapy that works by specifically targeting and attacking cancer cells. Chemotherapy attacks fast-replicating cells in the body but may also attack healthy non-cancerous cells.
Does Afinitor cause hair loss?
Afinitor does not cause hair loss when taken by itself but may be a side effect when taken with exemestane to treat certain types of cancer.
Does Afinitor cause breast cancer?
Afinitor does not casue breast cancer. Afinitor is used to treat patients with advanced hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, in combination with exemestane, in women who have tried other medications unsuccessfully.
Can Afinitor shrink tumors?
Afinitor does help to shrink tumors. The degree to which Afinitor can do this will depend on the type of cancer being treated.
How long can you stay on Afinitor?
Afinitor may be used as a long-term treatment. The average treatment time was around 6 months, but could be as long as 2 years.
Can you take Afinitor with erythromycin?
Afinitor must be used with caution in patients also using CYP3A4 and/or PgP inhibitors such as erythromycin. The dose of Afinitor may need to be reduced to 2.5 mg when used in combination with erythromycin.
How much does Afinitor cost?
Without insurance, Afinitor Disperz costs will vary depending on where you buy the medication, as prices will vary by retailer. As a guide, Afinitor Disperz oral tablets 2 mg will cost around $15,750 for 28 tablets.
How to avoid Afinitor side effects
The best way to avoid side effects is to take Afinitor as directed by your doctor. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and do not take more or less than prescribed.
If you experience any side effects, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to recommend ways to help reduce or prevent some of the side effects.
1. Stick to the recommended dosage
Take your prescribed dose of Afinitor that has been recommended by your healthcare professional. Do not take more or less than prescribed.
2. Monitor your blood sugar levels
If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely while taking Afinitor. Check your blood sugar levels as directed by your doctor and report any changes to your doctor immediately.
3. Drink plenty of fluids
Drink eight to 10 glasses of water or fluids every day to help prevent dehydration, which can make side effects worse.
4. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol is not known to affect Afinitor treatment but may worsen side effects of Afinitor such as mouth sores or nausea, and diarrhea. Speak to your doctor for advice on what is a safe amount of alcohol to drink while also taking Afinitor.
5. Don’t skip meals
Eating regular meals and snacks will help to prevent low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
6. Check your feet
If you have diabetes, check your feet for any cuts, sores, or redness regularly. Tell your doctor if you experience any problems with your feet while taking Afinitor.
7. Know the signs and symptoms of Afinitor side effects
Signs and symptoms of side effects include mouth sores, joint pain, and tiredness. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor for medical advice.
8. Monitor your weight
Afinitor may cause weight loss. If you experience this side effect while taking Afinitor, get medical advice from your doctor.
9. Tell your doctor about all medications you’re taking
Be sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements, as they can interact with Afinitor.
10. Get regular medical check ups
It is important to get regular medical check ups and monitor your medical conditions. Your doctor will monitor your side effects and may adjust your dose of Afinitor as needed.
A medical professional has reviewed this article.
Dr. Jamie Winn received his Doctor of Pharmacy in 2002 from the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC. Jamie is a medical reviewer for NiceRx.