Jakafi side effects and how to avoid them

Jakafi is a brand-name medication manufactured by Incyte Corporation. It is classified as a kinase inhibitor and used to treat adults with certain bone marrow disorders such as myelofibrosis or polycythemia vera. Jakafi is also used in pediatric patients 12 years of age and older with acute or chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). While Jakafi is generally well tolerated, there are some potential side effects that people should be aware of. The most common side effects of Jakafi include neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Less common, but more serious side effects, can include serious allergic reactions.

Learn more about the side effects of Jakafi and what you can do to avoid them.

What cancer does Jakafi treat?

Jakafi (ruxolitinib) is classed as a Janus Associated Kinase (JAK) inhibitor approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of:

  • Intermediate or high-risk myelofibrosis, including primary myelofibrosis, post-polycythemia vera myelofibrosis, and post-essential thrombocythemia myelofibrosis in adults
  • Polycythemia vera in adults who do not respond or are intolerant to hydroxyurea
  • Steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host disease in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older
  • Chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) after other therapies have failed in adult and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older

RELATED: What is Jakafi

Jakafi dosage

Jakafi is available in tablet form, in doses of 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20mg, and 25 mg tablets.

You are advised to read the medication guide provided with your medicine for the drug information and prescribing information, and always speak with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any changes to your dose so they can monitor and evaluate your condition.

RELATED: Jakafi Dosage

What are the side effects of Jakafi gvhd?

Some possible side effects of Jakafi in clinical trials include:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Neutropenia (low white blood cell count)
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  • Weight gain
  • Bruising
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • High cholesterol levels

What other side effects does Jakafi have?

Jakafi can cause some serious side effects including:

  • Low blood cell counts
  • Infections – symptoms may include sore throat, cough, ear pain, sinus pain, pain with passing urine, mouth ulcers
  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Major cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke
  • Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis

Contact your doctor for medical advice about any side effects you experience while taking Jakafi. You can report your side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.

What are the long-term side effects of Jakafi?

  • Jakafi can cause a reduction in platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cell counts. Stop treatment and call your doctor if you develop any unusual bleeding
  • Signs of an infection such as fever, night sweats, nausea, vomiting, or muscle aches. Contact your doctor if you develop a painful skin rash or blisters on the trunk of your body as these may be symptoms of shingles (herpes zoster)
  • Increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer
  • Increase in cholesterol levels
  • Symptoms of myelofibrosis may become worse after 1 week of stopping Jakafi treatment
  • Increased risk of major cardiovascular events including myocardial infarction, cardiovascular death, and stroke. Call for emergency help if you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, feeling lightheaded, and slurred speech
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Increased risk of lymphoma or other cancers, especially in those who smoke, now or in the past

Jakafi drug interactions

When Jakafi is taken with other medicines, they may interact and change how those work. It may also increase the severity and frequency of certain side effects. Make sure your healthcare provider is aware of all the medications you take, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Some possible drug interactions of Jakafi include:

  • Fluconazole – reduce your Jakafi dosage when taken with fluconazole at doses of less than or equal to 200 mg. Do not take Jakafi if you are taking more than 200mg of fluconazole
  • Jakafi should be reduced, temporarily interrupted, or stopped completely if taken with CYP3A4 inhibitors such as clarithromycin, ketoconazole, or grapefruit juice
  • Jakafi may need to be increased if taken with CYP3A4 inducers such as phenobarbital, phenytoin, or St. John’s Wort

Jakafi warnings & precautions

Don’t take Jakafi if you:

  • Are allergic to the active ingredient ruxolitinib
  • Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Jakafi
  • Are under 18 years of age and are being treated for myelofibrosis or polycythemia vera
  • Are under 12 years of age and are being treated for acute graft-versus-host disease

Talk to your doctor before taking Jakafi if you:

  • Have an active infection
  • Have or have had hepatitis B
  • Have or have had tuberculosis, or have been in close contact with someone who has tuberculosis
  • Have any liver problems
  • Have kidney problems or are on dialysis
  • Have skin cancer
  • Have high cholesterol or triglycerides blood levels
  • Are pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed

You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Jakafi, to make sure it is safe for you.

What are the side effects of stopping Jakafi?

Your condition may worsen if treatment with Jakfai is suddenly stopped. You may develop symptoms such as fever, unusual bleeding or bruising, trouble breathing, and dizziness. Your doctor may reduce your treatment slowly to prevent these side effects from occurring. You are advised to consult your healthcare provider for medical advice before stopping treatment with Jakafi and report any signs or symptoms of worsening side effects immediately.

Can Jakafi cause liver damage?

Jakafi may cause liver damage. Your healthcare provider will monitor you closely with blood tests during treatment with Jakafi.

What should you do in case of liver damage?

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of liver damage. This may include a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and upper right-sided stomach pain. Speak to your healthcare provider for medical advice if you experience any of these side effects.

Does Jakafi cause memory problems?

Jakfai may cause side effects such as changes in your mood or behavior, difficulty thinking, confusion, memory loss, and changes in speech, vision, or walking. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of these very serious side effects.

Is Jakafi chemotherapy?

Jakafi is not classed as chemotherapy. It is a treatment targeted at the production of blood cells.

How long can you take Jakafi?

Jakafi is for long-term treatment and you may take it for up to 6 months. If improvements are not seen after 6 months your doctor may decide to stop treating you with Jakafi.

What is severe neutropenia?

Severe neutropenia is a blood condition where you have very low white blood cells, known as neutrophils, in your blood. Neutrophils normally help to fight bacterial infections by engulfing and killing them. This is known as phagocytosis. Symptoms of severe neutropenia include fever, mouth ulcers, and inflammation of the sinuses, throat, and ears. Those with low levels of neutrophils may catch bacterial infections more easily which may be life-threatening.

How to avoid Jakafi side effects

The best way to avoid side effects is to take Jakafi 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 Jakafi 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 Jakafi. 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

Limit your alcohol intake while taking Jakafi as excessive consumption of alcohol could make the side effects of Jakafi worse.

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 Jakafi.

7. Know the signs and symptoms of Jakafi side effects

Signs and symptoms of side effects include headaches, tiredness, and dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms speak to your doctor for medical advice.

8. Monitor your weight

Jakafi may cause weight gain., with some patients reporting an increase of 5 to 10% in body weight. If you experience this side effect while taking Jakafi, 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 Jakafi.

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 Jakafi as needed.

Medically reviewed

A medical professional has reviewed this article.

Jamie Winn, PharmD
Jamie Winn, PharmD

Jamie Winn, PharmD

Medical Writer & Reviewer

Jamie Winn, PharmD

Medical Writer & Reviewer

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.

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The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.