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What is erlotinib?

Erlotinib (also called Tarceva®) is an anti-cancer medicine. Erlotinib is taken by mouth. It is available as a 25-mg, 100-mg and 150-mg tablet.

How to take erlotinib

  • You should take erlotinib on an empty stomach. You may not have anything to eat or drink one (1) hour before, and 2 hours after taking erlotinib.
  • You must drink plenty of fluids while taking erlotinib.
  • If you have problems taking this medicine on an empty stomach, talk to your doctor or clinical pharmacist.
  • Read the directions on the bottle carefully to make sure you take this medicine correctly.
  • If you cannot swallow the tablet, erlotinib can be crushed and mixed with a small amount of applesauce.

Possible side effects of erlotinib

  • Diarrhea
  • Rash seen on scalp, face, neck, chest and back, starting about a week after treatment begins
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Eye irritation

There may be more side effects, such as loss of hair, changes in liver function, unusual cough or fever. Please report all side effects right away to your doctor or nurse.

In case of severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse or pharmacist at 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for erlotinib

  • Because erlotinib may cause birth defects, do not take this medicine if you are pregnant. Both men and women who are taking erlotinib should use effective birth control methods.
  • It is not known whether erlotinib passes into breast milk. This medicine might cause serious harm to a nursing infant. Women who are taking erlotinib should not breast-feed a baby.
  • Erlotinib tablets should be stored at room temperature.
  • Keep this and all medicine out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Other medicine may affect the way erlotinib works, including phenytoin, cabamazepine, phenobarbital, rifampin, itraconazole, and erythromycin. Always give a complete list of medicines you are taking to your doctor or pharmacist. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new vitamins, herbals, or other medicines.
  • Do not take antacids within 2 hours of taking erlotinib.
  • Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice.
  • More frequent monitoring of PT/INR blood tests may be required if you are taking warfarin while on erlotinib.

Safe handling of erlotinib

All chemotherapy drugs taken by mouth can pose a health hazard to caregivers and patients. You should be careful when handling this medicine and try to keep the drug from touching the skin. Taking precautions will ensure that both the patient and the caregiver are protected as well as possible.

  • Prepare a clean area where the drug can be handled safely (away from areas where food is prepared, out of the reach of children, and out from under any air vents or fans).
  • We suggest you or the caregiver wear gloves while handling this medicine. Wash your hands right away if your skin comes in contact with the medicine.
  • Carefully wash tablet cutters and tablet crushers with warm soapy water after each use and allow to dry. Completely clean up any spills in the area where the medicine is prepared.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).