What is Alimta (Pemetrexed)?

Also known as pemetrexed, Alimta is a chemotherapy drug that is often used in combination with Keytruda, an immunotherapy medication, to target and destroy cancerous tumors that appear in and around the lungs. Alimta can also be used in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs, carboplatin or cisplatin. For palliative treatments in patients with advanced tumors, Alimta can be used alone. There is another type of pemetrexed medication known as Pemfexy, which was recently approved as an alternate chemotherapy treatment to the standard Alimta.

Alimta was approved for use in patients that have early and advanced mesothelioma or lung cancer, where the disease is unresectable or not eligible for curative surgery. Given as an infusion into the vein, the amount of Alimta or pemetrexed administered depends on several factors determined by your doctor. Factors include height, weight, general health, and stage of mesothelioma or lung cancer. Treatment is generally administered every 3 weeks in 10-minute intervals.

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How Alimta Works

This chemotherapy medication works by inhibiting a cell’s ability to divide and spread. More specifically, Alimta works by stopping the production of folate, which is needed for cell replication. It’s a part of a class of chemotherapy drugs called antimetabolites. When cells absorb antimetabolites, they lose the ability to divide. The more rapidly the cells divide, the more likely it is that the chemotherapy will kill the cells, but it cannot distinguish between healthy and unhealthy cells.

Side Effects

Since chemotherapy kills both healthy and tumorous cells, side effects are likely to occur. Side effects mentioned are usually manageable alone or with help from a prescription. If you experience any of the following side-effects for longer then 24 hours, consult with your doctor. Side-effects from Alimta can include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

Call your doctor immediately if you start experiencing any of the below (rarer) side effects:

  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Blisters, sores, or ulcers
  • Chest pain
  • Decreased urination
  • Headache
  • Hives
  • Issues breathing or swallowing
  • Itching
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Swelling, blistering, or rash
  • Slow or difficult speech

Pemetrexed can cause other side effects too. If you experience any other unusual effects, let your doctor know immediately.

Precautions to Take

There are specific actions you can take to help your treatment go as safely and efficiently as possible. Make sure you have a detailed discussion with your doctor about what they think is best for you and other important medical details. More specifically, tell your doctor if:

  1. You’re allergic to pemetrexed, mannitol (Osmitrol), or any other medications
  2. You’re currently taking any prescription or nonprescription medicines, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products
  3. You’ve ever had radiation therapy or kidney disease
  4. You’re pregnant, plan to be pregnant or foster a child or are breastfeeding

Serious complications can occur if you fail to keep your doctor informed on any of the above information. Pemetrexed can cause fertility problems and serious harm to women and men if doctors aren’t aware.

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Talk to Your Doctor

Make sure to disclose all relevant information about your health to your doctor and be as thorough as possible. It could be helpful to bring in a list of questions to ask your doctor so that you don’t forget when you get to their office. You can even get a second opinion from a different medical professional if you feel the need. Talking to your doctor about your questions and concerns is the best way to move forward and learn as much about Alimta and other treatment options and suggestions your doctor may have.

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