Side Effects of Sprycel: What You Need to Know


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Introduction

If you’re looking into treatment options for leukemia, your doctor may tell you about Sprycel (dasatinib).

Sprycel is a prescription drug that’s used to treat certain types of leukemia in adults and children. (Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects your bone marrow or blood.)

Sprycel comes as a tablet that you take by mouth. For more information about Sprycel, including details about its uses, see this in-depth article.

Sprycel can be used as a long-term cancer treatment. Your doctor will prescribe Sprycel for the length of time that’s right for you, taking into account your condition, risk for side effects, and other factors.

Keep reading to learn about possible mild and serious side effects of Sprycel.

What are the more common side effects of Sprycel?

Some people may experience mild or serious side effects during their Sprycel treatment. Examples of Sprycel’s commonly reported side effects may include:

  • diarrhea
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • water retention*
  • skin reactions*

Keep reading to learn more about potential mild and serious side effects of Sprycel.

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

What are the mild side effects of Sprycel?

Mild side effects can occur while taking Sprycel.

Examples of mild side effects that have been reported with Sprycel include:

  • abdominal (belly) pain
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • muscle pain or joint pain
  • muscle spasms
  • nausea and vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • tiredness
  • hair loss*
  • eye side effects* such as blurry vision or dry eye

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

In most cases, these side effects should be temporary. And some may be easily managed, too. But if you have any symptoms that are ongoing or that bother you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. And don’t stop using Sprycel unless your doctor tells you to.

Sprycel may cause mild side effects other than the ones listed above. See the Sprycel patient information.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Sprycel, visit MedWatch.

What are the serious side effects of Sprycel?

In rare cases, serious side effects can occur with Sprycel. You may be at a higher risk for certain serious side effects if you already have heart problems. (For more information, see the “Warnings for Sprycel” section below.)

Serious side effects that have been reported with Sprycel include:

  • unusual bleeding, which may cause problems such as bruising or bloody stools
  • heart problems, such as abnormal heart rhythm
  • low levels of certain blood cells, including platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells
  • tumor lysis syndrome (a condition that occurs when cancer cells release chemicals into your blood)
  • pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure that occurs in your lungs)
  • allergic reaction*
  • water retention*
  • skin reactions*

If you develop serious side effects while taking Sprycel, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Side effects explained” section below.

Side effects in children

In certain situations, Sprycel is used with chemotherapy to treat leukemia in children.

When used with chemotherapy, some side effects of Sprycel are more common in children. These include:

  • diarrhea
  • cough
  • fever
  • mouth sores
  • nausea and vomiting
  • muscle pain

Children who take Sprycel may also experience delayed growth compared with other children their age.

Talk with your child’s doctor about their risk for side effects from Sprycel.

FAQs about Sprycel’s side effects

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about Sprycel’s side effects.

How long do Sprycel’s side effects last?

Most side effects of Sprycel are short term. In many cases, side effects should go away either shortly after your body gets used to the drug or after you stop taking Sprycel.

However, some side effects of Sprycel might last longer. Examples of long-term side effects include heart damage from having an abnormal heart rhythm. Or you may have permanent lung damage after experiencing pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure that occurs in your lungs).

If you’re concerned about any long-term side effects from taking Sprycel, talk with your doctor.

Can Sprycel’s side effects ever cause death?

In rare cases it’s possible that serious side effects of Sprycel might cause death.

If severe or left untreated, the following side effects could be fatal:

  • bleeding
  • heart problems, such as abnormal heart rhythm
  • allergic reaction

If you’re concerned about serious side effects from Sprycel, talk with your doctor.

Can Sprycel cause weight gain or weight loss?

Yes, weight gain and weight loss were side effects reported in studies of Sprycel.

It’s important to note that leukemia (the condition Sprycel is used to treat) can cause weight loss. So after you start taking Sprycel and your condition begins to improve, you might experience weight gain. This could be due to the improvement in your health and not necessarily a side effect of the drug.

If you’re concerned about weight changes during your Sprycel treatment, talk with your doctor.

Side effects explained

Learn more about some of the side effects Sprycel may cause.

Eye side effects

Eye problems are a rare side effect of Sprycel.

Eye problems you might experience while taking this drug include:

  • blurry vision
  • dry eye
  • lessened visual acuity (ability to see details from a distance)
  • light sensitivity
  • watery eyes

What might help

Here a few tips that might help with eye problems that Sprycel may cause:

  • For dry eye, try over-the-counter (OTC) lubricant eye drops such as Systane Ultra or Refresh Tears.
  • For watery eyes, you can use antihistamine eye drops, such as Alaway.
  • For light sensitivity, wear sunglasses with dark lenses, or stay out of the sunlight.

If you experience eye problems while taking Sprycel, talk with your doctor. They can suggest ways to lessen or treat this side effect.

Hair loss

In rare cases, some people may experience hair loss while taking Sprycel.

What might help

To help prevent hair loss, you can apply OTC creams or gels to your scalp. Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an example of one of these products.

You can also use a baby shampoo. In addition, try limiting your use of blow-dryers and hair straighteners, as these can be harsh on your hair.

If you experience bothersome hair loss while taking Sprycel, talk with your doctor about ways to help manage this side effect.

Water retention

Sprycel may cause water retention, which can lead to swelling in your arms or legs. Water retention is a common side effect of the drug.

What might help

To help lessen swelling while taking Sprycel, you can try the following remedies:

  • Keep your feet elevated. This can help move water away from your legs.
  • Follow a diet that’s low in sodium (salt).
  • Wear compression socks.

To learn about other ways you can help lessen the swelling you might experience with Sprycel, talk with your doctor.

Skin reactions

In rare cases, taking Sprycel can cause skin reactions. These reactions may be mild, such as a rash, or severe, as with Stevens-Johnson syndrome. With Stevens-Johnson syndrome, you have painful sores on your mouth, throat, eyes, or genitals. This condition is a medical emergency.

What might help

If you have a severe skin reaction to the drug, you’ll likely need to be treated in a hospital. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away if you have severe blistering or skin peeling after taking Sprycel. These can be signs of a serious skin reaction, which can be life threatening.

If you’re concerned about your risk for a skin reaction to Sprycel, talk with your doctor.

Allergic reaction

Like most drugs, Sprycel can cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth, swelling, or redness in your skin)
  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What might help

If you have mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as a mild rash, call your doctor right away. They may suggest an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or a topical product (for example, hydrocortisone cream), to manage your symptoms.

If your doctor confirms you had a mild allergic reaction to Sprycel, they’ll decide if you should continue using it.

If you have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, such as swelling or trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. These symptoms could be life threatening and require immediate medical care.

If your doctor confirms you had a serious allergic reaction to Sprycel, they may have you switch to a different treatment.

Keeping track of side effects

During your Sprycel treatment, consider keeping notes on any side effects you’re having. Then, you can share this information with your doctor. This is especially helpful to do when you first start taking new drugs or using a combination of treatments.

Your side effect notes can include things like:

  • what dose of drug you were taking when you had the side effect
  • how soon after starting that dose you had the side effect
  • what your symptoms were from the side effect
  • how it affected your daily activities
  • what other medications you were also taking
  • any other information you feel is important

Keeping notes and sharing them with your doctor will help your doctor learn more about how Sprycel affects you. And your doctor can use this information to adjust your treatment plan if needed.

Warnings for Sprycel

Sprycel may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Sprycel. Factors to consider include those in the list below.

Weakened immune system. Sprycel decreases your immune system’s ability to fight infections. If you already have a weakened immune system, taking Sprycel can weaken it further and increase your chances of serious infections. Before starting this drug, tell your doctor if you have any existing problems with your immune system. They may prescribe a drug other than Sprycel for you.

Heart problems. Sprycel can cause heart problems. If you already have a heart problem, such as abnormal heart rhythm, taking Sprycel may make your condition worse. If you develop new or worsening heart problems while using Sprycel, you might need to stop your treatment. Before starting this drug, tell your doctor if you have any history of heart problems. They may prescribe a drug other than Sprycel for you.

Lactose intolerance. Sprycel contains lactose (a type of milk sugar). If you’re lactose intolerant and take Sprycel, you may have symptoms of lactose intolerance. Before using Sprycel, tell your doctor if you’re lactose intolerant. They can recommend ways to ease your symptoms, or they may prescribe a drug other than Sprycel for you.

Low levels of magnesium or potassium. Having low magnesium or potassium levels can increase your risk of having an abnormal heart rhythm with Sprycel. Your doctor may want to check your magnesium and potassium levels before prescribing the drug. If your levels are low, they’ll likely give you treatments to raise your magnesium and potassium levels before you start using Sprycel.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Sprycel or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Sprycel. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.

Alcohol use and Sprycel

It should be safe to drink alcohol during your Sprycel treatment. If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about the amount that’s safe for you to drink while taking Sprycel.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking Sprycel

You shouldn’t take Sprycel while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Studies have shown Sprycel may cause birth defects in babies whose birth mothers took the drug during pregnancy. For this reason, you should use birth control while taking the drug and for at least 30 days after your last dose.

It isn’t known if Sprycel can pass into breast milk. To be safe, you shouldn’t breastfeed while taking the drug and for at least 2 weeks after your last dose.

Before starting Sprycel, tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you’re planning to become pregnant or to breastfeed. They can discuss your options with you.

What to ask your doctor

Sprycel is a drug used to treat certain types of leukemia in adults and children. Some people using Sprycel may experience mild side effects. In rare cases, this drug can also cause serious side effects, such as unusual bleeding and heart problems.

If you have questions about Sprycel’s side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Here are a few examples of questions you may want to ask:

  • How do I know if I’m experiencing a side effect from Sprycel or a symptom of leukemia?
  • Am I at higher risk for side effects than others taking Sprycel?
  • What can I do to help manage side effects from Sprycel?

Ask a pharmacist

Q:

How do I know if I’m at risk for a serious skin reaction to Sprycel?

Anonymous patient

A:

In studies of Sprycel, certain risk factors for skin reactions weren’t seen. However, if you have a history of sensitive skin or skin reactions with other medications, you may have a higher risk for a serious skin reaction with Sprycel. If you have concerns about your risk for a reaction with Sprycel, talk with your doctor. They can help determine if this drug is right for you.

Victor Nguyen, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Healthline

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.


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