About your treatment
Your doctor has ordered pentamidine, an anti-infective agent, to help treat pneumonia caused by the organism Pneumocystis jiroveci (carinii). The drug will be either injected into a large muscle (such as your buttock or hip) or added to an intravenous fluid that will drip through a needle or catheter placed in your vein for 60 to 120 minutes, once a day. This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Your health care provider (doctor, nurse, or pharmacist) may measure the effectiveness and side effects of your treatment using laboratory tests and physical examinations. It is important to keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. The length of treatment depends on how your infection and symptoms respond to the medication.
Before administering pentamidine,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to pentamidine or any other drugs.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially antibiotics, amphotericin B (Fungizone), cisplatin (Platinol), foscarnet (Foscavir), and vitamins.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had asthma; hay fever; high or low blood pressure; diabetes; high or low blood sugar; anemia; severe skin allergic reaction; or heart, kidney, liver, or pancreatic disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking pentamidine, call your doctor.
Administering your medication
Before you administer pentamidine, look at the solution closely. It should be clear and free of floating material. Gently squeeze the bag or observe the solution container to make sure there are no leaks. Do not use the solution if it is discolored, if it contains particles, or if the bag or container leaks. Use a new solution, but show the damaged one to your health care provider.
It is important that you use your medication exactly as directed. Do not stop your therapy on your own for any reason because your infection could worsen and result in hospitalization. Do not change your dosing schedule without talking to your health care provider. Your health care provider may tell you to stop your infusion if you have a mechanical problem (such as a blockage in the tubing, needle, or catheter); if you have to stop an infusion, call your health care provider immediately so your therapy can continue.
Pentamidine may cause side effects. These side effects include kidney damage, but it is usually mild or moderate and reversible when the drug is stopped. Drink plenty of fluids while receiving pentamidine to minimize the risk. You also may experience lightheadedness and faintness after a dose of pentamidine. To minimize this risk, lie down while receiving this medication and do not administer it more quickly than directed.
Pentamidine also may cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Symptoms include cold sweats, clammy feeling, dizziness, weakness, nervousness, unusual hunger, abnormal heartbeat, blurred vision, confusion, slurred speech, and unconsciousness. These effects may be severe and can occur even after pentamidine is discontinued. Pentamidine also may cause high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Symptoms include frequent urination, increased thirst, weakness, dizziness, and headache. Your health care provider will advise you what to do if you develop low or high blood sugar; write down these directions so that you can refer to them later.
Tell your health care provider if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- upset stomach
- stomach pain
- decreased appetite
- metallic taste
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your health care provider immediately:
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- flushed, dry skin
- fruity breath odor
- increased thirst
- increased urination
- difficulty breathing
- sore mouth or throat
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].
Storing your medication
- Your health care provider will probably give you a 1- or 2-day supply of pentamidine at a time. If you are receiving pentamidine intravenously (in your vein), your health care provider will tell you to store it at room temperature in a clean, dry place.
If you are receiving pentamidine intramuscularly (in your muscle), your health care provider will tell you how to store it properly.
Store your medication only as directed. Make sure you understand what you need to store your medication properly.
Keep your supplies in a clean, dry place when you are not using them, and keep all medications and supplies out of reach of children. Your health care provider will tell you how to throw away used needles, syringes, tubing, and containers to avoid accidental injury.
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.
Signs of infection
If you are receiving pentamidine in your vein or under your skin, you need to know the symptoms of a catheter-related infection (an infection where the needle enters your vein or skin). If you experience any of these effects near your intravenous catheter, tell your health care provider as soon as possible:
¶ These branded products are no longer on the market and only generic alternatives are available.