5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS
5.1 Schedule-Dependent Toxicity
In clinical trials evaluating the maximum tolerated dose of gemcitabine, prolongation of the infusion time beyond 60 minutes or more frequent than weekly dosing resulted in an increased incidence of clinically significant hypotension, severe flu-like symptoms, myelosuppression, and asthenia. The half-life of gemcitabine is influenced by the length of the infusion [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)]. Refer to the recommended gemcitabine dosage [see Dosage and Administration (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)].
Myelosuppression manifested by neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, and anemia occurs with gemcitabine as a single agent and the risks are increased when gemcitabine is combined with other cytotoxic drugs. In clinical trials, Grade 3–4 neutropenia, anemia, and thrombocytopenia occurred in 25%, 8%, and 5%, respectively of the 979 patients who received single agent gemcitabine. The frequencies of Grade 3–4 neutropenia, anemia, and thrombocytopenia varied from 48% to 71%, 8% to 28%, and 5% to 55%, respectively, in patients receiving gemcitabine in combination with another drug [see Adverse Reactions (6.1)].
5.3 Pulmonary Toxicity and Respiratory Failure
Pulmonary toxicity, including interstitial pneumonitis, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary edema, and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), has been reported. In some cases, these pulmonary events can lead to fatal respiratory failure despite the discontinuation of therapy. The onset of pulmonary symptoms may occur up to 2 weeks after the last dose of gemcitabine [see Adverse Reactions (6.1, 6.2)].
Permanently discontinue gemcitabine in patients who develop unexplained dyspnea, with or without bronchospasm, or evidence of severe pulmonary toxicity.
5.4 Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome
Assess renal function prior to initiation of gemcitabine and periodically during treatment. Consider the diagnosis of HUS in patients who develop anemia with evidence of microangiopathic hemolysis; increased bilirubin or LDH; reticulocytosis; severe thrombocytopenia; or renal failure (increased serum creatinine or BUN). Permanently discontinue gemcitabine in patients with HUS or severe renal impairment. Renal failure may not be reversible even with the discontinuation of therapy.
5.5 Hepatic Toxicity
Drug-induced liver injury, including liver failure and death, has been reported in patients receiving gemcitabine alone or with other potentially hepatotoxic drugs [see Adverse Reactions (6.1, 6.2)]. Administration of gemcitabine in patients with concurrent liver metastases or a pre-existing medical history of hepatitis, alcoholism, or liver cirrhosis can lead to exacerbation of the underlying hepatic insufficiency. Assess hepatic function prior to initiation of gemcitabine and periodically during treatment. Permanently discontinue gemcitabine in patients who develop severe hepatic toxicity.
5.6 Embryo-Fetal Toxicity
Based on animal data and its mechanism of action, gemcitabine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Gemcitabine was teratogenic, embryotoxic, and fetotoxic in mice and rabbits.
Advise pregnant women of the potential risk to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment with gemcitabine and for 6 months after the final dose. Advise male patients with female partners of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment with gemcitabine and for 3 months following the final dose [see Use in Specific Populations (8.1, 8.3)].
5.7 Exacerbation of Radiation Therapy Toxicity
Gemcitabine is not recommended for use in combination with radiation therapy.
Concurrent (given together or ≤7 days apart)
Life-threatening mucositis, especially esophagitis and pneumonitis occurred in a trial in which gemcitabine was administered at a dose of 1,000 mg/m2 to patients with non-small cell lung cancer for up to 6 consecutive weeks concurrently with thoracic radiation.
5.8 Capillary Leak Syndrome
Capillary leak syndrome (CLS) with severe consequences has been reported in patients receiving gemcitabine as a single agent or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents [see Adverse Reactions (6.2)]. Permanently discontinue gemcitabine if CLS develops during therapy.
5.9 Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome
Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) has been reported in patients receiving gemcitabine as a single agent or in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents [see Adverse Reactions (6.2)]. PRES can present with headache, seizure, lethargy, hypertension, confusion, blindness, and other visual and neurologic disturbances. Confirm the diagnosis of PRES with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Permanently discontinue gemcitabine if PRES develops during therapy.