Revlimid side effects and how to avoid them
Revlimid is an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved medication manufactured by Celgene Corporation, used to treat different types of cancer. While Revlimid is generally well tolerated, there are some potential side effects that people should be aware of. The most common side effects of Revlimid include joint and muscle pain. Less common but more serious side effects can include allergic reactions.
Learn more about the side effects of Revlimid and what you can do to avoid them.
What is Revlimid (lenalidomide)?
Revlimid is a medicine prescribed to adults to treat certain types of cancers that can affect your blood, including:
- Multiple myeloma – alongside the medicine dexamethasone or as a maintenance treatment after a stem cell transplant
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)
- Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) – when the disease has come back or worsens after other treatments
- Follicular lymphoma – alongside the medicine rituximab
- Marginal zone lymphomas– alongside the medicine rituximab
The active ingredient in Revlimid is called lenalidomide. Lenalidomide works in three main ways to minimize the symptoms of your condition. These include:
- Blocking the development of cancerous blood cells by causing them to self-terminate
- Stimulating your immune system to attack cancerous cells
- Stopping blood vessels from developing inside cancerous tumors, starving the tumors of the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow
These three actions help to limit the number of cancerous cells you have in your body and how fast any tumors grow. This can provide relief from your symptoms and slow the progression of your cancer.
Is Revlimid a chemo?
Revlimid is not a chemo, it is a cancer treatment for myeloma and blood disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes.
How effective is Revlimid in treating multiple myeloma?
Revlimid does not improve survival rates overall in the population, but those who have received a stem cell transplant do live longer when using Revlimid.
Can Revlimid cure cancer?
Cancer can not be cured, but treatment with Revlimid can help control the symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Revlimid is available in capsule form in doses of 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 25 mg.
You are advised to read the prescribing information provided with this medicine for the drug information and patient 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.
How long does Revlimid stay in your system?
Revlimid will stay in your system for up to 4 weeks after your last dose.
How long can you take Revlimid?
Revlimid can be taken on days 1 to 21 of a 28-day cycle for up to 12 cycles.
What happens when you stop taking Revlimid?
Stopping taking Revlimid may worsen and increase the symptoms of your condition.
Revlimid side effects
The most common side effects of Revlimid in clinical trials include:
- Nose bleeds
- Skin rashes, itching, dry skin
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain, loss of appetite
- Tiredness or weakness
- Coughs, a sore throat, dry mouth, and other symptoms of a cold
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Inflammation of your stomach and intestine (“stomach flu”)
- Muscle cramps and muscle spasms
- Joint pain, back pain
- Swelling of your arms, hands, legs, feet, and skin
- Shaking or trembling (tremors)
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
Revlimid can cause more serious side effects, including:
- Life-threatening allergic reactions to the medication
- Birth defects or death of an unborn baby
- Severe liver problems, including liver failure and death. Symptoms include yellowing of your skin or the white of. your eyes
- Severe skin reactions that can be fatal
- Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS) caused by the fast breakdown of cancer cells, which can cause kidney failure, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and sometimes death
- Low white blood cells (neutropenia) and low platelets (thrombocytopenia)
- Worsening of your tumor (tumor flare reaction)
- Thyroid problems
- An increased risk of blood clots in the lung (pulmonary embolism), arm, or leg (deep vein thrombosis). Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, or arm or leg swelling
- An increased risk of early death in people who have mantle cell lymphoma (MCL)
- An increased risk of death in people who have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) caused by heart problems like atrial fibrillation, heart attack, or heart failure
- An increased risk of new cancers developing in people who take Revlimid with melphalan or a blood stem cell transplant
If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop taking Revlimid 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.
Does Revlimid affect your eyes?
Revlimid may cause eye problems such as blurred vision and cataracts.
Does Revlimid cause hair loss?
Hair loss is not a side effect of taking Revlimid but may be due to the condition you are being treated for. Speak to your doctor for medical advice if you are concerned about hair loss.
Revlimid drug interactions
Revlimid can interact with other medications, including:
- Digoxin, taken to treat various heart conditions
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants), such as warfarin
- Erythropoietin stimulating agents, taken to stimulate your bone marrow to make red blood cells
- Any hormone therapies that contain estrogen
Before taking Revlimid, be sure to tell your doctor about all of the medications you are taking to ensure they are safe to take at the same time.
Revlimid warnings & precautions
Revlimid isn’t suitable for everyone. It can cause birth defects or the death of an unborn baby, so it mustn’t be taken by women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Don’t try to become pregnant for at least four weeks before starting Revlimid, while taking it, or at least for four weeks after you’ve finished taking it. Carry out pregnancy tests on a regular basis to ensure you are not pregnant.
Revlimid can also pass into human semen. Men taking Revlimid should always use an effective form of birth control, such as condoms when having sex with a woman who is or who could become pregnant.
It is not known if Revlimid can pass into breast milk. Don’t breastfeed while taking Revlimid.
Don’t take Revlimid if:
- Are allergic to the active ingredient lenalidomide
- Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Revlimid
- Are under 18 years of age
Talk to your doctor before taking Revlimid if you:
- Are taking any of the medications that could interact with Revlimid
- Have any liver problems
- Have any kidney problems or are on dialysis
- Have any thyroid problems
- Have had a serious skin rash caused by a thalidomide treatment
- Are lactose intolerant
- Are aged over 75
You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Revlimid, to ensure it is safe.
How to avoid Revlimid side effects
The best way to avoid side effects is to take Revlimid 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 Revlimid 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 Revlimid. 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
Avoid drinking alcohol while taking Revlimid, as it can increase your risk of side effects. Speak to a healthcare professional about alcohol consumption while taking Revlimid.
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 problems with your feet while taking Revlimid.
7. Know the signs and symptoms of Revlimid side effects
Signs and symptoms of side effects include abdominal pain and loss of appetite. If you experience these symptoms, speak to your doctor for medical advice.
8. Monitor your weight
Weight loss or weight gain are not side effects reported with the use of Revlimid. Speak to your doctor if you experience a change in your weight while using this treatment.
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 Revlimid.
10. Get regular medical checkups
It is important to get regular medical checkups and monitor your medical conditions. Your doctor will monitor your side effects and may adjust your dose of Revlimid 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.