Hydroxyurea (Hydrea) is used alone or with other medications or radiation therapy to treat a certain type of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML; a type of cancer of the white blood cells) and certain types of head and neck cancer (including cancer of the mouth, cheek, tongue, throat, tonsils, and sinuses). Hydroxyurea (Droxia, Siklos) is used to reduce the frequency of painful crises and reduce the need for blood transfusions in adults and children 2 years of age and older with sickle cell anemia (an inherited blood disorder in which the red blood cells are abnormally shaped [shaped like a sickle] and cannot bring enough oxygen to all parts of the body). Hydroxyurea is in a class of medications called antimetabolites. Hydroxyurea treats cancer by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells in your body. Hydroxyurea treats sickle cell anemia by helping to prevent formation of sickle-shaped red blood cells.
Side Effects Of Hydroxyurea
Hydroxyurea may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- loss of appetite
- weight gain
- sores in the mouth and throat
- pale skin
- hair loss
- changes in skin and nails
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the WARNING section, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:
- fast heartbeat
- ongoing pain that begins in the stomach area but may spread to the back
- leg wounds or ulcers
- pain, itching, redness, swelling, or blisters on the skin
- pain in the upper right part of the stomach
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- numbness, burning or tingling in the hands or feet
- fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other breathing problems
Hydroxyurea may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
Warnings & Precautions
Before taking hydroxyurea:
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to hydroxyurea, any other medications, or any of the inactive ingredients in hydroxyurea capsules or tablets. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: certain medications for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) such as didanosine (Videx) and stavudine (Zerit) and interferon (Actimmune, Avonex, Betaseron, Infergen, Intron A, others). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
- tell your doctor if you have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), high levels of uric acid in your blood, or leg ulcers; if you are being treated with or have ever been treated with radiation therapy, cancer chemotherapy, or hemodialysis; or if you have or have ever had kidney or liver disease.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. You should not become pregnant or breastfeed while you are taking hydroxyurea. You will need to have a pregnancy test before you begin treatment with hydroxyurea. If you are a female, you should use effective birth control while taking hydroxyurea and for at least 6 months after stopping your treatment. If you are a male, you and your female partner should use effective birth control while taking hydroxyurea and for at least 6 months (Siklos) or at least 1 year (Droxia, Hydrea) after stopping your treatment. Talk to your doctor about birth control methods that you can use during and after your treatment and how long you should continue their use. If you become pregnant while taking hydroxyurea, call your doctor immediately. Hydroxyurea may harm the fetus.
- you should know that this medication may decrease fertility in men. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking hydroxyurea.
- do not have any vaccinations without talking to your doctor.
Hydroxyurea comes as a capsule and tablet to take by mouth. It is usually taken once a day with a glass of water. When hydroxyurea is used to treat certain types of cancer, it may be taken once every third day. Take hydroxyurea at around the same time every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take hydroxyurea exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Your doctor may need to delay your treatment or adjust your dose of hydroxyurea depending on your response to treatment and any side effects that you may experience. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling during your treatment. Do not stop taking hydroxyurea without talking to your doctor.
Your doctor will probably tell you to take another medication, folic acid (a vitamin), to decrease some of the side effects of this medication. Take this medication exactly as directed.
Swallow the capsules whole; do not split, chew, or crush them.
The hydroxyurea 1,000-mg tablets (Siklos) are scored so that they can easily be split into halves or quarters to provide smaller doses. Do not break the hydroxyurea 100-mg tablets into smaller parts. Your doctor will tell you how to break the tablets and how many tablets or parts of a tablet you should take.
If you are unable to swallow hydroxyurea tablets or portion(s) of tablets, you may dissolve your dose in water. Place your dose in a teaspoon and add a small amount of water. Wait about 1 minute to allow the tablet(s) to dissolve, then swallow the mixture right away.
You should wear rubber or latex gloves when you handle the capsules or tablets so that your skin does not come into contact with the medication. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after you touch the bottle or medication. If hydroxyurea gets into your eyes, immediately flush your eyes with water for at least 15 minutes. If the powder from a capsule or tablet spills, wipe it up immediately with a damp disposable towel. Then place the towel in a closed container, such as a plastic bag, and throw it away in a trash can that is out of the reach of children and pets. Clean the spill area using a detergent solution followed by clean water.
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking hydroxyurea.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. People who are not taking hydroxyurea should avoid touching the medication or the bottle that contains the medication.
Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
All information has been provided courtesy of MedLinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and from the FDA.