What is Opdivo Uses, warnings & interactions
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Opdivo (nivolumab) is a type of cancer treatment that is manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb. It was approved in 2014 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alone or as adjuvant therapy to treat certain types of cancer. Opdivo is given as a 30-minute intravenous (IV) infusion in your doctor’s office or clinic.
If your doctor has prescribed Opdivo to you, you may want to know more about what it is and how it works. Here we’ll explain what Opdivo is used for, how it works, its side effects, and more.
What is Opdivo used for?
Opdivo is a monoclonal antibody that is used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat:
- Unresectable or metastatic skin cancer (melanoma)
- Advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck
- Advanced renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer)
- Classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Esophageal adenocarcinoma (type of esophageal cancer)
- Mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) or microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) colorectal cancer
- Gastric and gastroesophageal junction cancer
- Urothelial carcinoma (a type of bladder cancer)
- Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma
How does Opdivo work?
Opdivo is a human IgG4 monoclonal antibody that inhibits the programmed death receptors-1 (PD-1), which are found on cells in your immune system. When this medication binds to the PD-1 receptors, it blocks other proteins from attaching to them. Your immune system is then free to produce proteins that attack and kill cancer cells.
What are the most commonly prescribed doses of Opdivo?
- 40mg/4ml (10mg/ml) solution
- 100mg/10 mL (10 mg/ml) solution
- 120mg/12ml (10mg/ml) solution
- 240mg/24ml (10mg/ml) solution
Before taking Opdivo
Before taking Opdivo, tell your healthcare provider about your medical conditions, including:
- Autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus
- Had a previous organ transplant
- Have received or are scheduled to receive a stem cell transplant
- Have had chest radiation
- Myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, or other nervous system disorders
- Are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding
How to take Opdivo
- Read the Full Prescribing Information, Drug Information, and Medication Guide that comes with Opdivo.
- You will receive this medication from your doctor at a hospital or clinic. It is given as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes. You will receive an infusion every 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the condition being treated.
- You may take Opdivo alone, or along with other immunotherapy or chemotherapy.
- Your doctor will determine how long you stay on Opdivo. They may perform blood tests to help monitor you for adverse effects.
- If you miss an infusion appointment, call your doctor immediately to reschedule.
You should not take Opdivo if you have an allergy to nivolumab or any inactive ingredients in this product.
- Opdivo can cause your immune system to attack healthy organ systems and tissues. Your doctor may run tests to check your liver enzymes, creatinine, and thyroid function at baseline and periodically while on this medication.
- If you have severe infusion-related reactions, your doctor may interrupt, slow the rate of infusion, or permanently discontinue Opdivo.
- Fatal and other complications can occur in patients who receive a stem cell transplant from a donor.
Opdivo drug interactions
When Opdivo is taken with other medications, it may change the way they work or increase the frequency and severity of side effects. You should ask your doctor if any of the prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you take may interact with Opdivo.
Opdivo side effects
Some common side effects of Opdivo seen in clinical trials include:
- Infusion reactions
- Hair loss
- Skin problems such as skin rash or blistering
- Muscle pain
- Back pain
- Excessive tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Low red blood cells
- Upper respiratory tract infection
- Urinary tract infection
- High calcium and sodium levels
- Low potassium and magnesium levels
Opdivo can sometimes cause more serious side effects, including:
- Severe, life-threatening hypersensitivity reactions (hives, swelling of the face or throat, and shortness of breath)
- Lung problems
- Chest pain
- Liver problems such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Kidney problems
- Pneumonitis, colitis, and hepatitis
Contact your healthcare professional for medical advice about any possible side effects you experience while taking Opdivo. You can report your adverse reactions to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.
Your doctor can prescribe other medications if Opdivo is not right for you. They will vary by factors such as side effects and cost. Some FDA-approved alternatives to Opdivo include:
- Bavencio (avelumab)
- Yervoy (ipilimumab)
- Keytruda (pembrolizumab)
- Cabometyx (cabozantinib)
- Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin)
- Nexavar (sorafenib)
Can you take Opdivo while you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
There is no information available on the use of Opdivo during pregnancy. Based on animal studies and its mechanism of action, you should not use this medication because it may harm your unborn baby. If you can become pregnant, use an effective form of birth control during Opdivo treatment and for at least 5 months following your last dose. It is not known if Opdivo is found in breast milk. The use of this medication while breastfeeding is not recommended. You should always discuss the risks and benefits of any medication with your healthcare provider if you are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
What is the success rate of Opdivo?
In patients with advanced melanoma, the average survival rate was almost 37 months in patients treated with Opdivo. In addition to this, the overall survival rate at 6.5 years was 57% in those who received Opdivo and Yervoy, 43% for those taking Opdivo alone, and 24% in those taking just Yervoy.
Is Opdivo chemotherapy?
No, Opdivo is not considered chemotherapy. It is a type of immunotherapy that works with the T cells in your immune system to stop the growth and spread of certain types of cancer.
What are some signs that Opdivo is working?
Your doctor will perform periodic scans such as a CT scan, PET scan, or MRI to see if your tumors are shrinking or growing as well as to see if you have any new tumors.
How much does Opdivo cost?
Currently, there is no generic Opdivo available on the market. The average cost of #2 vials of Opdivo 100mg/10ml is almost $5,500. However, you can save on brand-name drugs like Opdivo through NiceRx if eligible for assistance.