About Amifostine (Ethyol®)
Amifostine is a type of drug called a chemoprotectant, cytoprotectant, or radioprotectant, which is used to prevent or lessen the damage to the kidneys caused by cisplatin (a chemotherapy) or damage to the salivary glands, resulting in dry mouth, caused by radiation therapy. Amifostine works by promoting the repair of damaged tissue and binding to harmful free radicals released by cells after exposure to cisplatin.
How to Take Amifostine
Amifostine is given by intravenous (into a vein) infusion, over the course of a few minutes. The treatment is given 15-30 minutes before radiation or chemotherapy starts. Patients are given the infusion while lying down and their blood pressure is monitored. Patients may be asked to increase their fluid intake for 24 hours before the infusion. The actual dose a patient receives is based on his/her height and weight.
Possible Side Effects
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Amifostine. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:
This medication can cause a drop in your blood pressure (hypotension). Your blood pressure will be monitored by your healthcare team before and during treatment with this medication.
This medication may cause cutaneous (skin) reactions including erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, toxoderma and exfoliative dermatitis. Report any skin changes, especially any rash involving the lips or mouth and lesions on the palms of hands, soles of the feet, or the front/back of abdomen to your healthcare team immediately.
Nausea and/or Vomiting
Talk to your doctor or nurse so they can prescribe medications to help you manage nausea and vomiting. In addition, dietary changes may help. Avoid things that may worsen the symptoms, such as heavy or greasy/fatty, spicy or acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, oranges). Try antacids, (e.g. milk of magnesia, calcium tablets such as Tums), saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms.
Call your doctor or nurse if you are unable to keep fluids down for more than 12 hours or if you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time.
Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium)
Amifostine can cause the level of calcium in your blood to decrease. Symptoms of low blood calcium include muscle spasms and/or twitching, a numbness or tingling of fingers, toes or around the mouth. If this occurs, your healthcare team may ask you to take calcium supplements (like Tums) to correct this problem.
Amifostine should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects. It is also recommended that breast feeding be discontinued during treatment with this medication.