Search Knowledgebase

Topic Contents



Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Pemetrexed interferes with the cancer cell's ability to reproduce. Pemetrexed is an intravenous (IV) medication. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule of administering this drug.

Why It Is Used

Pemetrexed slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. It is used to treat non–small cell lung cancer that has spread (metastasized) outside the lung.

How Well It Works

Pemetrexed is an effective anti-tumour medication. However, the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medication slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

Side effects are rare, but possible serious side effects of pemetrexed include:

  • Allergic reactions. Signs of allergic reaction can include trouble breathing; swelling or closing of the throat; swollen face, tongue, or lips; or hives.
  • Feeling extremely tired, bruising or bleeding easily, or signs of infection such as a fever or chills. These symptoms may mean that the medicine caused the numbers of your white or red blood cells or platelets to drop.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy).
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea.

Less serious side effects are more common and may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Rash.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis).
  • Hair loss. This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.

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

What To Think About

Pemetrexed should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

Pemetrexed can affect your ability to have children. You may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after taking this medication. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

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

Your doctor can prescribe medicines to help you manage any nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ASA or ibuprofen, are often stopped for 2 days before and during treatment with pemetrexed, to avoid kidney problems.

People who use pemetrexed will need to take vitamin B12, folate, and corticosteroids to decrease the risk of side effects from this medication.

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


Other Works Consulted

  • Pemetrexed (Alimta) for mesothelioma (2004). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therpeutics, 46(1180): 31–32.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised July 19, 2010

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