Gleevec

(imatinib)

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Treats leukemia and stomach tumors.

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Our bottom line

Gleevec (imatinib) is good at treating leukemia and stomach tumors but it may cause serious side effects.

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Quick facts about Gleevec
  • Drug class: Cancer
  • Rx status: Prescription only
  • Generic status: Lower-cost generic available (imatinib)

Upsides

  • Gleevec (imatinib) is more effective at treating chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) than other treatments for it.
  • Gleevec (imatinib) is available in generic form.
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What to expect from Gleevec, on one page

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Downsides

  • In some rare cases, Gleevec (imatinib) can cause serious side effects such as liver damage, heart failure, and stomach tears.
  • Gleevec (imatinib) can harm an unborn baby. You need to take birth control during treatment and for 2 weeks following the last dose.
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What to expect from Gleevec, on one page

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How it works

Gleevec (imatinib) stops cancer cells from multiplying, and kills cancer cells by blocking a specific protein that causes them to grow.

Quick facts about Gleevec
  • Drug class: Cancer
  • Rx status: Prescription only
  • Generic status: Lower-cost generic available (imatinib)

Used for

  • Adults and children with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML, Philadelphia chromosome positive)
  • Adults and children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST)

Dosage forms

  • Pill
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Prices and coupons

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What to expect when you take Gleevec (imatinib) for ALL

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  • First few daysDays
    First few weeksWeeks
    First few monthsMonths
    Long term
  • Effectiveness
  • Starts to kick in
    Full effects
  • First few daysDays
    First few weeksWeeks
    First few monthsMonths
    Long term
  • Possible side effects
  • Low white blood cell count
  • Low platelet count
  • Infection
  • Liver problems
  • Low potassium
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
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Side effect rates for Gleevec (imatinib)

From 778 clinical trials of Gleevec when taken for any indication
  • Low white blood cell count
    71%71%
  • Low platelet count
    55%55%
  • Liver problems
    22%22%
  • Infection
    17%17%
  • Low potassium
    9%9%
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
    4%4%
  • Swelling and sores in mouth
    3%3%
  • Lack of appetite
    2%2%
  • Bleeding
    2%2%
  • Lower oxygen
    2%2%
  • Diarrhea
    2%2%
  • Low blood pressure
    2%2%
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
Where we got our data »

The placebo bar shows how common a side effect was for people taking a sugar pill instead of Gleevec.

Gleevec (imatinib)
Placebo

People taking Gleevec felt side effect more

People taking Gleevec felt side effect less

No difference

Risks and Warnings for Gleevec (imatinib)

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    • Higher risk if:
    • Higher dose
    • Age 65 or older

    Gleevec (imatinib) can cause water retention and swelling. You’ll need to weigh yourself regularly and tell your doctor about unexpected, rapid weight gain so it can be treated.

Pharmacist Q&A

Gleevec (imatinib) questions for

Frequently Asked Questions

This medication treats chronic myeloid leukemia in children with a certain genetic mutation (Philadelphia chromosome positive).

Who is this drug for?

This medication treats chronic myeloid leukemia in children with a certain genetic mutation (Philadelphia chromosome positive).

Common concerns from people taking Gleevec (imatinib)

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Interactions
  • Gleevec (imatinib) can interact with medicines such as warfarin, phenytoin, erythromycin, and others. Talk to your doctor about all the medications you are taking, including over the counter medicines and dietary supplements. Avoid grapefruit juice.
Food
  • Take Gleevec (imatinib) with food and a large glass of water. If you have difficulty swallowing pills, Gleevec (imatinib) can be dissolved in water or apple juice and then taken.
Sleep
  • Gleevec (imatinib) can cause dizziness, blurred vision, and drowsiness. Avoid driving until you know how your body reacts to this medicine.