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Fludarabine is available as an oral and intravenous (IV) medicine.

How It Works

Fludarabine is an antimetabolite medicine. It causes cell death by interfering with the way genetic material (DNA) in the cell multiplies.

Why It Is Used

Fludarabine is used in combination with other medicines to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL).

How Well It Works

Fludarabine is an effective treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) that has not responded to other types of chemotherapy, such as chlorambucil or cyclophosphamide. Studies are ongoing to find out the safety and effectiveness of fludarabine in people who have not received other types of chemotherapy or who are responding to other types of chemotherapy.

Side Effects

Side effects are common with fludarabine and can include:

  • Severe rapid destruction of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia).
  • Decreased platelet counts (thrombocytopenia), which may lead to bleeding in the digestive tract, causing tarry stools.
  • Joint pain.
  • Blood in urine or stools.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cough, wheezing, hoarseness, or shortness of breath.
  • Confusion.
  • Fever or chills.
  • General feeling of discomfort or illness (malaise).
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis).
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Painful, burning, or difficult urination.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • Hair loss (uncommon side effect).

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Fludarabine should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist or hematologist.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Fludarabine can cause birth defects. Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or if you wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.

Fludarabine can interact with many other medicines. Be sure that your doctor has a complete list of all prescription and non-prescription medicines you are taking.

Do not drink alcoholic beverages or take medicines containing ASA while being treated with fludarabine, because these can cause bleeding from your stomach.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised June 7, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.