Alimta Side Effects and Management Key Points

Alimta Side Effects and Management Key Points


Myelosuppression is the dose-limiting toxicity of Alimta. Mild myelosuppressive effects caused by Alimta include anemia (15% to 19%), neutropenia (6% to 11%), thrombocytopenia (8%), and febrile neutropenia (<5%). Supplementation with folic acid and vitamin B12 can reduce Alimta’s hematologic toxicity and delay the onset of drug toxicity. Daily supplementation with folic acid during chemotherapy can prevent myelosuppression.

Early use of bone marrow-stimulating hematopoietic factors, such as recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor or recombinant human thrombopoietin, is recommended when Grade III or higher myelosuppression occurs. If a patient’s previous cycle treatment resulted in an absolute neutrophil count minimum <500/mm^2 or platelet count minimum ≥50,000/mm^2, then the dose for the next cycle should be adjusted to 75% of the original dose; if the platelet count minimum <50,000/mm^2, regardless of the absolute neutrophil count minimum, the next cycle’s dose should be adjusted to 50% of the original dose.

2.Gastrointestinal Reactions:

Gastrointestinal reactions are the main non-hematologic toxicity. Nausea (12% to 31%) and vomiting (6% to 16%) can be easily controlled with ondansetron and gastropin. The incidence of abdominal pain is <5%. Appetite loss occurs in 19% to 22% of patients, which can be improved with megestrol acetate to enhance appetite and increase food intake. Diarrhea occurs in 5% to 13% of patients and can be alleviated with antidiarrheal medications such as montmorillonite powder. Additionally, about 6% of patients experience constipation, which can be relieved with the use of laxatives such as lactulose, bisacodyl, or senna.

3.Hepatic Toxicity:

Liver damage is mainly temporary and mild to moderate increases in transaminases, with 8% to 10% experiencing increased alanine aminotransferase levels, and 7% to 8% experiencing increased aspartate aminotransferase levels. Normal levels can be restored after discontinuation of the drug or with hepatoprotective enzyme-lowering treatment.

4.Renal Toxicity:

Some patients may experience increased creatinine levels and renal failure; dose adjustments are necessary for patients with renal impairment with a creatinine clearance rate of 45 ml/min, while generally, no adjustment is needed for elderly patients. Additionally, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can decrease the creatinine clearance rate, and their use should be cautious in patients with mild to moderate renal impairment.

5.Cardiovascular Toxicity:

Edema occurs in 5% of patients, which can be symptomatically treated with diuretics. The incidence of thrombosis/embolism, arrhythmia, and supraventricular tachycardia is very low.

6.Respiratory Toxicity:

Cases of radiation pneumonitis have been reported in patients undergoing radiation therapy before, during, or after treatment with Alimta, thus caution is advised when using Alimta as a radiosensitizer.

7.Ocular Toxicity:

Conjunctivitis ≤ 5%, which can be symptomatically treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. The incidence of increased tearing is 1% to 5%, and ophthalmologic consultation may be sought for symptom management.

8.Dermatologic Toxicity:

No more than 14% of patients experience rash and desquamation, with 7% experiencing pruritus. The incidence of erythema multiforme is ≤ 5%. The incidence of skin toxicity can be reduced and symptoms alleviated with dexamethasone pretreatment, and dermatologic consultation may be necessary.

9.Neurological Toxicity:

Neurological/sensory (sensory: 9%; motor: ≤ 5%), taste disturbances, somnolence, mood changes, depression; prompt discontinuation of the drug and symptomatic treatment are recommended for severe neurotoxic reactions, with assistance from relevant departments.

10.Systemic Symptoms:

The incidence of allergic reactions is <5%; immediate cessation of infusion and administration of antiallergic or emergency drugs based on the patient’s condition are required upon occurrence. The incidence of fatigue is 18% to 34%; patients are advised to rest and enhance nutrition. 8% of patients experience fever, which can be symptomatically treated with antipyretics. The incidence of infection is less than 5%, with sepsis occurring in less than 1%.

Alimta Side Effects and Management Key Points
Alimta Side Effects and Management Key Points

Alimta (pemetrexed) is a chemotherapeutic agent that has significantly impacted the treatment landscape for certain types of cancer. This drug is particularly noted for its use in the management of malignant pleural mesothelioma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Developed by Eli Lilly and Company, Alimta has become a cornerstone in the oncology field, offering hope and extending life for many patients facing these challenging diagnoses.

Pharmacological Principle

Alimta functions as an antifolate chemotherapeutic agent. Its mechanism of action involves the inhibition of three enzymes that are crucial for purine and pyrimidine synthesis, which are essential components of DNA and RNA. By targeting thymidylate synthase (TS), dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), and glycinamide ribonucleotide formyltransferase (GARFT), Alimta disrupts tumor cell replication and induces cell death. This selective inhibition of folate-dependent metabolic processes makes Alimta particularly effective against rapidly dividing cancer cells while sparing normal cells to a certain extent, thereby reducing some of the adverse effects commonly associated with chemotherapy.


Alimta is approved for the treatment of patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest wall, or abdomen, typically associated with asbestos exposure. It is used in combination with cisplatin for patients who are not candidates for surgery. Furthermore, Alimta is indicated for the initial treatment of advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), in combination with cisplatin, and as a maintenance treatment or second-line treatment after prior chemotherapy has failed.


Alimta is contraindicated in patients with a known hypersensitivity to pemetrexed or any of its components. Additionally, its use is cautioned in patients with renal impairment, as reduced renal function can lead to increased toxicity. Patients should also be evaluated for bone marrow suppression and gastrointestinal toxicity before initiating treatment with Alimta.

Dosage and Administration

The typical dose of Alimta for the treatment of NSCLC and mesothelioma is 500 mg/m2 administered intravenously every 21 days, in combination with cisplatin. Prior to administration, patients are premedicated with corticosteroids, folic acid, and vitamin B12 to minimize drug-related toxicities. The dose may be adjusted based on the patient’s renal function, blood cell counts, and overall tolerance of the medication.

Development History

The development of Alimta is a testament to the advances in targeted cancer therapy. Its journey began with the identification of its unique mechanism of action, which provided a new therapeutic target for cancer treatment. After extensive clinical trials to determine its efficacy and safety, Alimta received FDA approval in 2004 for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma and in 2009 for NSCLC. Its approval marked a significant milestone in the treatment of these cancers, offering a new line of defense for patients with few other options.

Manufacturers and Pricing

Alimta is manufactured and marketed by Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical leader based in the United States. The cost of Alimta can be quite high, often exceeding several thousand dollars per dose. However, the price can vary based on insurance coverage, treatment regimen, and geographic location. Eli Lilly and Company has established patient assistance programs to help eligible patients access Alimta at a reduced cost or no cost, ensuring that financial barriers do not prevent patients from receiving this life-extending treatment.

In conclusion, Alimta represents a significant advancement in the field of oncology, providing an effective treatment option for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma and NSCLC. Its development underscores the importance of targeted cancer therapies and the ongoing need for research and innovation in the fight against cancer. As the landscape of cancer treatment continues to evolve, Alimta serves as a beacon of hope for many patients, offering a chance for improved outcomes and quality of life.

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