Guide to Imatinib Mesylate

Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Imatinib Mesylate is a prescription drug used to treat certain leukemias, cancers, and blood cell diseases. Imatinib Mesylate can also treat certain immune system disorders.

The FDA approved Imatinib Mesylate in 2003 as the generic alternative to the brand-name drug, Gleevec.

Use this guide as a reference for important information you need to know about Imatinib Mesylate if you are currently taking or considering taking the medication. Always consult with your healthcare provider first to help you decide if this drug is the right treatment for you.

Types of leukemias, cancers, blood diseases, and immune system disorders that Imatinib Mesylateis used for

Depending on the treatment plan, Imatinib Mesylate can be used alone or with other medicines to treat different cancer or bone marrow conditions. Imatinib Mesylate is prescribed for these diseases:

What is Imatinib Mesylate, and how does it Work?

Imatinib Mesylate belongs to a class of medications called tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI). It works by blocking the abnormal protein that signals cancer cells to multiply. This helps stop the spread of cancer cells.

What is the effectiveness of this drug?

In its first clinical trial, 31 patients were treated with this drug. Notably, all 31 individuals experienced complete remission; in other words, their blood counts returned to normal.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the estimated overall survival rate at 10 years among patients receiving first-line Imatinib Mesylate treatment was 83.3% in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia patients.

What are the possible side effects of Imatinib Mesylate?

As with most medications, those taking Imatinib Mesylate may experience side effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, they may need medical attention if they do occur.

Alert your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following side effects:

The more common side effects of Imatinib Mesylate include, but aren’t limited to:

  • diarrhea
  • belly pain
  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • edema (swelling, typically in your legs, ankles, or feet and around your eyes)
  • muscle cramps or pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • Rash

Many of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they become more severe or don’t go away, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

While not common, serious side effects can occur. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these below. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you have a medical emergency.

  • Severe fluid retention in and around your heart, lungs, and belly. Symptoms can include; rapid weight gain, chest pain, shortness of breath, trouble taking deep breaths or breathing when lying down, dry cough, or swollen belly.
  • Blood disorders: Symptoms can include; fatigue (lack of energy), rapid heart rate, frequent infections, shortness of breath, fever, bruising easily, bleeding of the gums, and blood in the urine or stool.
  • Congestive heart failure and other heart problems: Symptoms can include; unexpected weight gain, abnormal heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath, and edema (swelling of legs, ankles, and feet).
  • Liver damage or liver failure: Symptoms can include; nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, itchy skin, jaundice, edema, fluid buildup in the belly, frequent bleeding, and bruising.
  • Severe hemorrhage: (bleeding that doesn’t stop), usually in the intestines. Symptoms can include; blood in stool, black or tarry stool, fatigue, coughing up blood or black sludge, nausea, and stomach cramps.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: including perforations in your stomach or intestines. Symptoms can include; nausea, vomiting, severe stomach pain, fever, shortness of breath, and fast heartbeat.
  • Severe skin problems: Symptoms can include; red patches or blisters on the soles of your feet or palms of your hands, sores in your mouth, throat, eyes, genitals, etc., fever, and body aches.
  • Hypothyroidism: (low thyroid levels) in people who have had their thyroid removed and take thyroid replacement medication. Symptoms can include; lack of energy, constipation, depression, feeling cold, dry skin, weight gain, and memory problems.
  • Tumor lysis syndrome: Symptoms can include; fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.
  • Kidney damage: Symptoms can include; urinating less, edema, fatigue, nausea, confusion, and high blood pressure.

Other side effects not listed may occur in some patients, and some usually do not need medical attention. Please consult with your doctor if you experience any side effects, as they may be able to help you prevent or reduce them.


Drug interactions can affect how your medications work or increase your risk for serious side effects. Keep an updated list of all current medications you use to share with your physician and pharmacist to identify and prevent potential drug interactions. This list should include prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal products.

Imatinib Mesylate can slow down removing other medications from your body, which may affect how they work. Examples of affected drugs include flibanserin, irinotecan, lomitapide, and warfarin. (This is not a complete list, so always speak with your doctor.)

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