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Alimta Q & A

What is Alimta?

Alimta (pemetrexed) is a cancer drug used in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on February 4, 2004, as the first drug specifically for mesothelioma. Since that time, it has also been approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, and is currently being tested for effectiveness in treating other types of cancer. In the case of mesothelioma, Alimta is given in combination with cisplatin (platinol), unless the patient has other health conditions which would make the use of cisplatin inappropriate.

Is Alimta a cure for malignant mesothelioma?

Alimta is not a cure for malignant mesothelioma, however, during the clinical trial process, those patients treated with the Alimta/cisplatin regimen had a median survival of 12.1 months compared to 9.3 months for patients treated with cisplatin as a single agent.

How does Alimta work?

Alimta is a multi-targeted antifolate drug that works by blocking certain enzymes that play a part in the rapid proliferation of cancer cells.

What does my doctor need to know before I begin treatment?

Although your doctor will take a complete medical history to determine whether Alimta is right for you, you should tell him/her whether you are allergic to any drugs, have kidney or liver disease or a compromised immune system. You should also report any medications (both prescription and non-prescription), vitamins and/or herbal supplements you may be taking. It is particularly important to notify your doctor if you are taking NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). If you are in doubt as to the names or types of drugs you take, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

How is Alimta given?

Prior to your first treatment, your doctor will explain the importance of taking vitamin B12 and folic acid before, during and after treatment. On the day before, the day of and the day after treatment, your doctor will prescribe a corticosteroid to lessen your chances of a skin reaction.

Alimta is administered intravenously (IV) every 21 days. This procedure takes about 10 minutes. About 30 minutes after the Alimta is given, cisplatin is infused slowly for approximately 2 hours.

What are the potential side effects of Alimta?

Most people undergoing chemotherapy experience some side effects. The most common side effects associated with Alimta are:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Rash
  • Decrease in white blood cells which increases the risk of infection
  • Decrease in red blood cells which may cause anemia
  • Decrease in platelets which results in bleeding or bruising

You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, hives, fever greater than 100.4°F, chills, diarrhea or mouth sores. More on nutritional issues related to the side effects of Alimta usage.

For more detailed information on Alimta and its use in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma, always feel free to speak with your health care professionals or your pharmacist.