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What is imatinib?

Imatinib (also known as Gleevec®) is used to treat certain types of cancer. Imatinib is taken by mouth. It is available as 100-mg and 400-mg tablets.

How to take imatinib

  • Read the directions on the bottle carefully to make sure you take this medicine correctly.
  • Try to take each day’s dose at the same time each day.
  • Take this medicine with food. The food will help you avoid an upset stomach. It also helps the medicine work better in your body.
  • If you cannot swallow the tablet, you may put it in half a glass of water or apple juice. Let it sit for a few minutes. Then, mix and drink. Rinse the glass with more of the same liquid and drink again to make sure no medicine is left on the sides or bottom of the glass.

Possible side effects of imatinib

  • Low white blood cell counts and low platelet counts
  • Abnormal liver tests
  • Swelling of legs or belly
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Skin irritation or itching
  • Mouth sores

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

In case of a 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 imatinib

  • Because imatinib may cause birth defects, do not take this medicine if you are pregnant. Both men and women who are taking imatinib should use effective birth control methods.
  • It is not known whether imatinib passes into breast milk. Because this medicine might cause serious harm to a nursing infant, women who are taking imatinib should not breast-feed.
  • Imatinib tablets should be stored at room temperature.
  • Keep this medicine out of reach of children and pets.
  • If you miss a dose, follow these guidelines:
    • Take the missed dose right away as long as the next dose is more than 12 hours away.
    • Do not take the missed dose if your next dose is due in less than 12 hours.
    • Never take a double dose or extra doses.

Safe handling of imatinib

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 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).