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Thalidomide is a powerful human teratogen that induces a high frequency of severe and life-threatening birth defects, even after a single dose. Mortality at or shortly after birth has been reported in about 40% of infants. When there is no satisfactory alternative treatment, females of reproductive potential may be treated with thalidomide provided adequate precautions are taken to avoid pregnancy. THALOMID® (thalidomide) is only available through the THALOMID REMS™ program (formerly known as the “S.T.E.P.S.® program”), [see THALOMID REMSTM Program (S.T.E.P.S. ®)].
Oral ingestion is the only type of maternal thalidomide exposure known to result in drug-associated birth defects. There are no specific data available regarding the reproductive risks of cutaneous absorption or inhalation of thalidomide; however, females of reproductive potential should avoid contact with THALOMID® (thalidomide) Capsules. THALOMID Capsules should be stored in blister packs until ingestion. If there is contact with non-intact thalidomide capsules or the powder contents, the exposed area should be washed with soap and water.
If healthcare providers or other care givers are exposed to body fluids from patients receiving THALOMID (thalidomide) the exposed area should be washed with soap and water. Appropriate precautions should be utilized, such as wearing gloves to prevent the potential cutaneous exposure to THALOMID.
Females of Reproductive Potential
Females of reproductive potential must avoid pregnancy for at least 4 weeks before beginning THALOMID therapy, during therapy, during dose interruptions and for at least 4 weeks after completing therapy.
Females must commit either to abstain continuously from heterosexual sexual intercourse or to use two methods of reliable birth control, beginning 4 weeks prior to initiating treatment with THALOMID, during therapy, during dose interruptions and continuing for 4 weeks following discontinuation of THALOMID therapy.
Two negative pregnancy tests must be obtained prior to initiating therapy. The first test should be performed within 10-14 days and the second test within 24 hours prior to prescribing THALOMID therapy and then weekly during the first month, then monthly thereafter in women with regular menstrual cycles or every 2 weeks in women with irregular menstrual cycles [see Use In Specific Populations].
Thalidomide is present in the semen of patients receiving the drug. Therefore, males must always use a latex or synthetic condom during any sexual contact with females of reproductive potential while taking THALOMID and for up to 28 days after discontinuing THALOMID, even if they have undergone a successful vasectomy. Male patients taking THALOMID must not donate sperm [see Use in Specific Populations].
Patients must not donate blood during treatment with THALOMID and for 1 month following discontinuation of the drug because the blood might be given to a pregnant female patient whose fetus must not be exposed to THALOMID.
THALOMID REMS™ Program (S.T.E.P.S. ®)
Because of the embryo-fetal risk [see Embryo-Fetal Toxicity], THALOMID is available only through a restricted program under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), the THALOMID REMS™ program (formerly known as the “S.T.E.P.S. ®” program).
Required components of the THALOMID REMS™ program include the following:
- Prescribers must be certified with the THALOMID REMS™ program by enrolling and complying with the REMS requirements.
- Patients must sign a Patient-Physician Agreement Form and comply with the REMS requirements. In particular, female patients of reproductive potential who are not pregnant must comply with the pregnancy testing and contraception requirements [see Use In Specific Populations] and males must comply with contraception requirements [see Use In Specific Populations].
- Pharmacies must be certified with the THALOMID REMS™ program, must only dispense to patients who are authorized to receive THALOMID and comply with REMS requirements.
Further information about the THALOMID REMS™ program is available at www.celgeneriskmanagement.com or by telephone at 1-888-4235436.
Venous And Arterial Thromboembolism
The use of THALOMID in patients with MM results in an increased risk of venous thromboembolism, such as deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. This risk increases significantly when thalidomide is used in combination with standard chemotherapeutic agents including dexamethasone. In one controlled trial, the rate of venous thromboembolism was 22.5% in patients receiving thalidomide in combination with dexamethasone compared to 4.9% in patients receiving dexamethasone alone (p = 0.002).
Ischemic heart disease (11.1%), including myocardial infarction (1.3%), and stroke (cerebrovascular accident, 2.6%) have also occurred in patients with previously untreated MM treated with THALOMID and dexamethasone compared to placebo and dexamethasone (4.7%, 1.7%, and 0.9%, respectively) in one clinical trial [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].
Consider thromboprophylaxis based on an assessment of individual patients' underlying risk factors. Patients and physicians should be observant for the signs and symptoms of thromboembolism. Advise patients to seek immediate medical care if they develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or arm or leg swelling [see BOXED WARNING]. Agents that also may increase the risk of thromboembolism should be used with caution in patients receiving THALOMID [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].
Drowsiness And Somnolence
Thalidomide frequently causes drowsiness and somnolence. Patients should be instructed to avoid situations where drowsiness may be a problem and not to take other medications that may cause drowsiness without adequate medical advice [see DRUG INTERACTIONS]. Advise patients as to the possible impairment of mental and/or physical abilities required for the performance of hazardous tasks, such as driving a car or operating other complex or dangerous machinery. Dose reductions may be required.
Thalidomide is known to cause nerve damage that may be permanent. Peripheral neuropathy is a common ( ≥ 10%) and potentially severe adverse reaction of treatment with thalidomide that may be irreversible. Peripheral neuropathy generally occurs following chronic use over a period of months; however, peripheral neuropathy following relatively short-term use has been reported. The correlation with cumulative dose is unclear. Symptoms may occur some time after thalidomide treatment has been stopped and may resolve slowly or not at all.
Few reports of neuropathy have arisen in the treatment of ENL despite long-term thalidomide treatment. However, the inability clinically to differentiate thalidomide neuropathy from the neuropathy often seen in Hansen's disease makes it difficult to determine accurately the incidence of thalidomide-related neuropathy in ENL patients treated with thalidomide.
Patients should be examined at monthly intervals for the first 3 months of thalidomide therapy to enable the clinician to detect early signs of neuropathy, which include numbness, tingling or pain in the hands and feet. Patients should be evaluated periodically thereafter during treatment. Patients should be regularly counseled, questioned, and evaluated for signs or symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Consideration should be given to electrophysiological testing, consisting of measurement of sensory nerve action potential (SNAP) amplitudes at baseline and thereafter every 6 months in an effort to detect asymptomatic neuropathy. If symptoms of drug-induced neuropathy develop, thalidomide should be discontinued immediately to limit further damage, if clinically appropriate. Usually, treatment with thalidomide should only be reinitiated if the neuropathy returns to baseline status.
Medications known to be associated with neuropathy should be used with caution in patients receiving thalidomide [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].
Dizziness And Orthostatic Hypotension
Patients should also be advised that thalidomide may cause dizziness and orthostatic hypotension and that, therefore, they should sit upright for a few minutes prior to standing up from a recumbent position.
Decreased white blood cell counts, including neutropenia, have been reported in association with the clinical use of thalidomide. Treatment should not be initiated with an absolute neutrophil count (ANC) of < 750/mm³. White blood cell count and differential should be monitored on an ongoing basis, especially in patients who may be more prone to neutropenia, such as patients who are HIV-seropositive. If ANC decreases to below 750/mm³ while on treatment, the patient's medication regimen should be re-evaluated and, if the neutropenia persists, consideration should be given to withholding thalidomide if clinically appropriate.
Increased HIV Viral Load
In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of thalidomide in an HIV-seropositive patient population, plasma HIV RNA levels were found to increase (median change = 0.42 log10 copies HIV RNA/mL, p = 0.04 compared to placebo). A similar trend was observed in a second, unpublished study conducted in patients who were HIV-seropositive. The clinical significance of this increase is unknown. Both studies were conducted prior to availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy. Until the clinical significance of this finding is further understood, in HIV-seropositive patients, viral load should be measured after the first and third months of treatment and every 3 months thereafter.
Bradycardia in association with thalidomide use has been reported. Cases of bradycardia have been reported, some required medical interventions. The clinical significance and underlying etiology of the bradycardia noted in some thalidomide-treated patients are presently unknown. Monitor patients for bradycardia and syncope. Dose reduction or discontinuation may be required.
Medications known to decrease heart rate should be used with caution in patients receiving thalidomide [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome And Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis
Serious dermatologic reactions including Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis, which may be fatal, have been reported. THALOMID should be discontinued if a skin rash occurs and only resumed following appropriate clinical evaluation. If the rash is exfoliative, purpuric, or bullous or if Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis is suspected, use of THALOMID should not be resumed.
Although not reported from pre-marketing controlled clinical trials, seizures, including grand mal convulsions, have been reported during post-approval use of THALOMID in clinical practice. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of unknown size, estimates of frequency cannot be made. Most patients had disorders that may have predisposed them to seizure activity, and it is not currently known whether thalidomide has any epileptogenic influence. During therapy with thalidomide, patients with a history of seizures or with other risk factors for the development of seizures should be monitored closely for clinical changes that could precipitate acute seizure activity.
Tumor Lysis Syndrome
Monitor patients at risk of tumor lysis syndrome (e.g., patients with high tumor burden prior to treatment) and take appropriate precautions.
Some contraceptive methods may pose a higher risk of adverse effects or may be medically contraindicated in some patients treated with THALOMID. Because some patients may develop sudden, severe neutropenia and/or thrombocytopenia, use of an intrauterine device (IUD) or implantable contraception in these patients may carry an increased risk for infection or bleeding either at insertion, removal or during use. Treatment with THALOMID, the presence of an underlying malignancy, and/or use of an estrogen-containing contraceptive can each increase the risk of thromboembolism. It is not known if these risks of thromboembolism are additive. However, they should be taken into consideration when choosing contraceptive methods.
Hypersensitivity to THALOMID has been reported. Signs and symptoms have included the occurrence of erythematous macular rash, possibly associated with fever, tachycardia, and hypotension, and if severe, may necessitate interruption of therapy. If the reaction recurs when dosing is resumed, THALOMID should be discontinued.
Patient Counseling Information
See FDA-approved Patient labeling (Medication Guide)
- Advise patients that THALOMID is contraindicated in pregnancy and can cause serious birth defects or death to a developing baby. [see CONTRAINDICATIONS, WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and Use in Specific Populations].
- Advise females of reproductive potential that they must avoid pregnancy while taking THALOMID and for at least 4 weeks after completing
- Initiate THALOMID treatment in females of reproductive potential only following a negative pregnancy test.
- Advise females of reproductive potential of the importance of monthly pregnancy tests and the need to use two different forms of contraception including at least one highly effective form simultaneously during THALOMID therapy, during therapy interruption and for 4 weeks after she has completely finished taking THALOMID. Highly effective forms of contraception other than tubal ligation include IUD and hormonal (birth control pills, injections, patch or implants) and a partner's vasectomy. Additional effective contraceptive methods include latex or synthetic condom, diaphragm and cervical cap.
- Instruct patient to immediately stop taking THALOMID and contact her doctor if she becomes pregnant while taking this drug, if she misses her menstrual period, or experiences unusual menstrual bleeding, if she stops taking birth control, or if she thinks FOR ANY REASON that she may be pregnant.
- Advise patient that if her doctor is not available, she can call 1-888-668-2528 for information on emergency contraception [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and Use In Specific Populations].
- Advise males to always use a latex or synthetic condom during any sexual contact with females of reproductive potential while taking THALOMID and for up to 28 days after discontinuing THALOMID, even if they have undergone a successful vasectomy.
- Advise male patients taking THALOMID that they must not donate sperm [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and Use in Specific Populations].
- All patients must be instructed to not donate blood while taking THALOMID and for 1 month following discontinuation of THALOMID [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS and Use In Specific Populations].
THALOMID REMS™ Program
Because of the risk of embryo-fetal toxicity, THALOMID is only available through a restricted program called the THALOMID REMS™ program (formerly known as the “S.T.E.P.S. ®” program) [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
- Patients must sign a Patient-Physician Agreement Form and comply with the requirements to receive THALOMID. In particular, females of reproductive potential must comply with the pregnancy testing, contraception requirements and participate in monthly telephone surveys. Males must comply with the contraception requirements [see Use In Specific Populations].
- THALOMID is available only from pharmacies that are certified in THALOMID REMS™ program. Provide patients with the telephone number and website for information on how to obtain the product.
Venous and Arterial Thromboembolism
Inform patients of the potential risk of developing venous thromboembolism (such as DVT and PE), ischemic heart disease (including myocardial infarction), and stroke, and discuss the need for appropriate prophylactic treatment [see BOXED WARNINGS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Drowsiness and Somnolence
Inform patients of the risk of drowsiness and somnolence with the drug and to avoid situations where drowsiness or somnolence may be a problem and not to take other medications that may cause drowsiness or somnolence without adequate medical advice [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Inform patients of the risk of peripheral neuropathy and report the signs and symptoms associated with this event to their health care provider for further evaluation [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Dizziness and Orthostatic Hypotension
Inform patients of the risk of dizziness and orthostatic hypotension with the drug. Inform patients to sit upright for a few minutes prior to standing [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Inform patients on the risk of developing neutropenia and the need to monitor their white blood cell count [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Increased HIV Viral Load
Inform HIV seropositive patients of the risk of increased viral load and the need to monitor viral load [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Inform patients of the risk of bradycardia and report signs and symptoms associated with this event to their healthcare provider for evaluation [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis
Inform patients of the potential risk for Stevens Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis and report any signs and symptoms associated with these events to their healthcare provider for evaluation [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Inform patients of the risk of seizures and report any seizure while taking THALOMID [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Tumor Lysis Syndrome
Inform patients of the potential risk of tumor lysis syndrome and report any signs and symptoms associated with this event to their healthcare provider for evaluation [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Inform patients that some contraceptive methods may pose a higher risk of adverse effects or may be medically contraindicated in some patients treated with THALOMID [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS, DRUG INTERACTIONS].
Inform patients of the potential for a hypersensitivity reaction to THALOMID if they have had such a reaction in the past to Revlimid [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility
Two-year carcinogenicity studies were conducted in male and female rats and mice. No compound-related tumorigenic effects were observed at the highest dose levels of 3,000 mg/kg/day to male and female mice (38-fold greater than the highest recommended daily human dose of 400 mg based upon body surface area [BSA]), 3,000 mg/kg/day to female rats (75-fold the maximum human dose based upon BSA), and 300 mg/kg/day to male rats (7.5-fold the maximum human dose based upon BSA).
Thalidomide was neither mutagenic nor genotoxic in the following assays: the Ames bacterial (S. typhimurium and E. coli) reverse mutation assay, a Chinese hamster ovary cell (AS52/XPRT) forward mutation assay, and an in vivo mouse micronucleus test.
Fertility studies were conducted in male and female rabbits; no compound-related effects in mating and fertility indices were observed at any oral thalidomide dose level including the highest of 100 mg/kg/day to female rabbits and 500 mg/kg/day to male rabbits (approximately 5-and 25-fold the maximum human dose, respectively, based upon BSA). Testicular pathological and histopathological effects (classified as slight) were seen in male rabbits at dose levels ≥ 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 1.5-fold the maximum human dose based upon BSA).
Use In Specific Populations
THALOMID can cause embryofetal harm when administered to a pregnant female and is contraindicated during pregnancy.
THALOMID is a human teratogen, inducing a high frequency of severe and life-threatening birth defects such as amelia (absence of limbs), phocomelia (short limbs), hypoplasticity of the bones, absence of bones, external ear abnormalities (including anotia, micropinna, small or absent external auditory canals), facial palsy, eye abnormalities (anophthalmos, microphthalmos), and congenital heart defects. Alimentary tract, urinary tract, and genital malformations have also been documented and mortality at or shortly after birth has been reported in about 40% of infants. Even a single dose taken by a pregnant woman can cause birth defects. If this drug is used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant while taking this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to a fetus.
If pregnancy does occur during treatment, immediately discontinue the drug. Under these conditions, refer the patient to an obstetrician/gynecologist experienced in reproductive toxicity for further evaluation and counseling. Report any suspected fetal exposure to THALOMID to the FDA via the MedWatch program at 1-800-FDA-1088 and also to Celgene Corporation at 1-888-423-5436.
A pre- and postnatal reproductive toxicity study was conducted in pregnant female rabbits. Compound-related increased abortion incidences and elevated fetotoxicity were observed at the lowest oral dose level of 30 mg/kg/day (approximately 1.5-fold the maximum human dose based upon BSA) and all higher dose levels. Neonatal mortality was elevated at oral dose levels to the lactating female rabbits ≥ 150 mg/kg/day (approximately 7.5-fold the maximum human dose based upon BSA). No delay in postnatal development, including learning and memory functions, were noted at the oral dose level to the lactating female rabbits of 150 mg/kg/day (average thalidomide concentrations in milk ranged from 22 to 36 μg/mL).
It is not known whether thalidomide is excreted in human milk. Thalidomide is excreted in the milk of lactating rabbits. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from THALOMID, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.
Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients below the age of 12 years have not been established.
One hundred and seventy-six (52%) of 336 patients treated with THALOMID in combination with dexamethasone were ≥ 65 of age while 50 (15%) were ≥ 75. Patients ≥ 65 years of age on Study 2 had higher incidences of atrial fibrillation, constipation, fatigue, nausea, hypokalemia, deep venous thrombosis, hyperglycemia, pulmonary embolism, and asthenia compared to patients < 65.
Females Of Reproductive Potential And Males
THALOMID can cause fetal harm when administered during pregnancy [see Use In Specific Populations]. Females of reproductive potential must avoid pregnancy 4 weeks before therapy, while taking THALOMID, during dose interruptions and for at least 4 weeks after completing therapy.
Females of reproductive potential must commit either to abstain continuously from heterosexual sexual intercourse or to use two methods of reliable birth control simultaneously (one highly effective form of contraception – tubal ligation, IUD, hormonal (birth control pills, injections, hormonal patches, vaginal rings or implants) or partner's vasectomy and one additional effective contraceptive method – male latex or synthetic condom, diaphragm or cervical cap. Contraception must begin 4 weeks prior to initiating treatment with THALOMID, during therapy, during dose interruptions and continuing for 4 weeks following discontinuation of THALOMID therapy. Reliable contraception is indicated even where there has been a history of infertility, unless due to hysterectomy. Females of reproductive potential should be referred to a qualified provider of contraceptive methods, if needed.
Females of reproductive potential must have 2 negative pregnancy tests before initiating THALOMID. The first test should be performed within 10-14 days, and the second test within 24 hours prior to prescribing THALOMID. Once treatment has started and during dose interruptions, pregnancy testing for females of reproductive potential should occur weekly during the first 4 weeks of use, then pregnancy testing should be repeated every 4 weeks in females with regular menstrual cycles. If menstrual cycles are irregular, the pregnancy testing should occur every 2 weeks. Pregnancy testing and counseling should be performed if a patient misses her period or if there is any abnormality in her menstrual bleeding. THALOMID treatment must be discontinued during this evaluation.
Thalidomide is present in the semen of males who take THALOMID. Therefore, males must always use a latex or synthetic condom during any sexual contact with females of reproductive potential while taking THALOMID, during dose interruptions and for up to 28 days after discontinuing THALOMID, even if they have undergone a successful vasectomy. Male patients taking THALOMID must not donate sperm.
No clinical studies were conducted with THALOMID in patients with mild, moderate or severe renal function. Renal impairment is not expected to influence drug exposure since < 3.5% of the dose is excreted in the urine as unchanged drug.
In a study of 6 patients with end-stage renal disease, thalidomide (200 mg/day) was administered on a non-dialysis day and on a dialysis day and blood samples for pharmacokinetics were collected at least 10 hours following the dose. Comparison of concentration-time profiles on a non-dialysis day and during dialysis showed that the mean total clearance increased by a 2.5-fold during hemodialysis. Because the dialysis was performed 10 hours following administration of the dose, the drug-concentration time curves were not statistically significantly different for days patients were on and off of dialysis. In addition, there were no major differences in thalidomide PK between patients with end-stage renal disease and healthy volunteers. Thus, no dosage adjustment is needed for patients with renal impairment or patients on dialysis.
No clinical studies have been conducted in patients with hepatic impairment.
Last reviewed on RxList: 7/7/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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