Leucovorin (folinic acid)
This information is about a medicine called leucovorin, which is sometimes known as folinic acid (FA) or calcium folinate.
Leucovorin is not a chemotherapy drug, but it's often given as part of chemotherapy treatment - either to make the chemotherapy more effective or to reduce the risk of side effects. This fact sheet has information about leucovorin when it's given with the chemotherapy drugs fluorouracil (5FU) or methotrexate.
You'll see your hospital doctor regularly while you have your treatment so they can monitor the effects of the chemotherapy.
What leucovorin looks like
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Leucovorin is a clear, pale yellow fluid. It's also available as tablets.
Leucovorin is often given with 5FU chemotherapy to treat cancers of the colon, rectum and other parts of the digestive system. Adding leucovorin has been shown to increase the effectiveness of the 5FU. Leucovorin may also be given with the chemotherapy drug tegafur-uracil (Uftoral®), which is similar to 5FU.
Leucovorin is also commonly given with methotrexate chemotherapy, which is used to treat many different types of cancer. It's mainly given with higher doses of methotrexate and can help reduce the side effects. It is sometimes known as 'folinic acid rescue'.
Leucovorin can be given in one of the following ways:
as an injection through a fine tube (cannula) inserted into a vein (intravenously), usually in the back of your hand
through a fine plastic tube inserted under the skin and into a vein near your collarbone (central line)
into a fine tube inserted into a vein in the crook of your arm (PICC line)
by drip (infusion) into a cannula or line
by injection into a muscle (intramuscular injection)
as tablets swallowed with a drink.
If you're given tablets, it's important to take them as directed by your doctor.
Side effects of folinic acid are rare. However, sometimes you may have a high temperature (fever) after the drug has been given. Your doctor may prescribe some tablets to help relieve this effect. Any side effects that occur are much more likely to be related to the chemotherapy you've had.
However, if you notice any side effects that you think may be related to the leucovorin, please discuss them with your doctor, chemotherapy nurse or pharmacist.
It’s important to let your doctor know straight away if you feel unwell or have any severe side effects, even if they’re not mentioned above.
This section is based on our leucovorin fact sheet, which has been compiled using information from a number of reliable sources, including:
Sweetman, et al. Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference. 37th edition. 2011. Pharmaceutical Press.
British National Formulary. 62nd edition. 2011. British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC). www.medicines.org.uk (accessed September 2011.)
Perry MC. The Chemotherapy Source Book. 4th edition. 2007. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.