Asparaginase injection will no longer be available in the U.S. after December 31, 2012. If you are currently receiving asparaginase injection, you should talk to your doctor to discuss switching to another treatment.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Asparaginase is used with other chemotherapy drugs to treat a certain type of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL; a type of cancer of the white blood cells). Asparaginase is an enzyme that interferes with natural substances necessary for cancer cell growth. It works by killing or stopping the growth of cancer cells.
How should this medicine be used?
Asparaginase comes as a powder to be added to fluid and injected into a muscle or infused intravenously (into a vein) over 30 minutes by a doctor or nurse in a medical office or hospital outpatient clinic. It is usually given three times a week.
Other uses for this medicine
Asparaginase is also sometimes used to treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML; a type of cancer of the white blood cells) in children and to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL; a type of cancer that begins in a type of white blood cells that normally fights infection) in children and adults. Talk to your doctor about the risks of using this medication for your condition.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking asparaginase,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to asparaginase, pegaspargase (Oncaspar), or any other medications.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take.
- tell your doctor if you have or ever had pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas), blood clots, or severe bleeding, especially if these happened during an earlier treatment with asparaginase. Your doctor may not want you to receive asparaginase.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking asparaginase, call your doctor.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Asparaginase may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- ongoing pain that begins in the stomach area, but may spread to the back
- hallucinating (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- swelling of the face, arms, or legs
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- pain in the upper right part of the stomach
- dark colored urine
- frequent urination
- increased thirst
Asparaginase may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
This medication will be stored at your doctor's office or clinic.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests to check your body's response to asparaginase.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
- l-Asparagine Amidohydrolase
¶ This branded product is no longer on the market. Generic alternatives may be available.