Vismodegib (Erivedge ®)
Vismodegib (Erivedge ®) is a targeted therapy drug used to treat advanced basal cell skin carcinoma.
Usually, basal cell skin cancers are very slow-growing and don’t spread to other parts of the body. Rarely, they can spread into surrounding skin tissues, which is known as locally advanced cancer. Very rarely, they can spread into other parts of the body. This is known as metastatic cancer.
It’s best to read this with our general information about skin cancer.
Vismodegib is a type of targeted therapy drug called a cancer growth inhibitor. Proteins in cells send signals that tell the cells to grow and divide. Vismodegib blocks (inhibits) the proteins from sending signals to the cancer cells, so that they don’t grow and divide.
When vismodegib is givenBack to top
Vismodegib is used when treatment with surgery or radiotherapy is not possible. It is also used when basal cell carcinoma has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic) and is causing symptoms.
Vismodegib may only be available in some situations. Your cancer doctor can tell you if it's appropriate for you. Some people may be given it as part of a clinical trial.
If a drug isn’t available on the NHS, there may be different ways you can still have it. Your cancer doctor can give you advice.
You take vismodegib as a tablet once a day. Try to take it at about the same time each day. You should swallow the tablet whole with a glass of water. You can take it with or without food.
Always take your tablets exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explained. This is important to make sure they work as well as possible for you.
Do not stop taking any of your tablets unless your doctor tells you to. Here are some important things to remember:
- If you forget to take your tablet, just take your usual dose the next day. Don’t take a double dose.
- If you are sick after taking your tablet, just take your next dose at the usual time.
- Keep them safe and out of sight and reach of children.
- Return any remaining tablets to the pharmacist if your treatment is stopped.
You usually take vismodegib for as long as it controls the cancer.
Preventing pregnancy while taking vismodegibBack to top
Vismodegib can cause severe abnormalities in developing babies. It’s very important not to get pregnant or to father a child while taking it. Check with your doctor or specialist nurse if you’re not sure whether you are still able to have children.
Your doctor or nurse will give you specific information to read about the risks of vismodegib and pregnancy. They will talk to you about the risks and the recommended contraception to use. You will be asked to sign a form once you have been given and read all of the information.
Women who are still able to have children need to take a pregnancy test before treatment, and then each month during treatment. You will need to use two types of contraception. One should be a very effective method, such as an IUD or the contraceptive injection. The other one should be barrier contraception, such as the condom or diaphragm.
You need to use contraception during treatment and for 24 months after treatment finishes. If you think you may be pregnant during this time, contact your doctor or specialist nurse straight away.
Vismodegib passes into semen. You must use a condom when you have sex with a woman during treatment and for two months after it finishes. You must use a condom even if you have had a vasectomy. If your partner thinks they might be pregnant during or after treatment, contact your doctor or specialist nurse straight away.
Possible side effects of vismodegibBack to top
We have included the most common side effects of vismodegib. We have also included some less common and rarer side effects. You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you will not get them all.
Your doctor can prescribe drugs to help control some side effects. It is very important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has explained.
Your nurse will give you advice about managing side effects. After your treatment is over, side effects will slowly start to improve. Always tell your doctor or nurse about the side effects you have.
Serious and life-threatening side effects
Sometimes cancer drugs can result in very serious side effects, which rarely may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor and nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.
Contact the hospital
Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. You can call them if you feel unwell or need advice any time of day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.
More information about this drug
We’re not able to list every side effect for this treatment here, particularly the rarer ones. For more detailed information, you can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC).
Muscle or joint pain
You may get pain in your muscles or joints, and spasms in your muscles. This may be worse at night. Tell your doctor if this happens. They can prescribe painkillers or other medicines to help. Let them know if the pain does not get better.
Your hair may thin, and some people may lose all of the hair from their head. Your eyelashes, eyebrows and other body hair may also thin or fall out. This usually starts two to four months after starting treatment. It is almost always temporary and your hair will grow back slowly after treatment ends. It is important to protect your scalp by covering your head when you are out in the sun. Your nurse can give you advice about coping with hair loss.
You may get a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth, or find that food tastes different. This should go away when your treatment finishes. Try using herbs and spices in your cooking, unless you have a sore mouth or ulcers. Or use strong-flavoured sauces to give your food more flavour. Sucking boiled sweets can sometimes help get rid of a bitter or metallic taste. Your nurse can give you more advice.
Loss of appetite and weight loss
You may lose your appetite during your treatment and lose weight. Try to eat small meals regularly. If your appetite doesn’t improve after a few days, let your nurse or dietitian know. They can give you advice on getting more calories and protein in your diet. They may give you food supplements or meal replacement drinks to try. Your doctor can prescribe some of these and you can buy them from chemists.
Feeling very tired is a common side effect. Try to pace yourself and get as much rest as you need. It helps to balance this with some gentle exercise, such as short walks. If you feel sleepy, don’t drive or operate machinery
Your doctor will prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs to help prevent or control sickness. Take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains to you. It’s easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.
Your doctor can prescribe drugs to control diarrhoea. Let them know if it is severe or if it doesn’t get better. Make sure you drink at least two litres (three and a half pints) of fluids every day if you have diarrhoea.
Vismodegib may make you constipated and cause tummy pain. Drinking at least two litres (three and a half pints) of fluids every day will help. Try to eat more foods that contain fibre, such as fruit, vegetables and wholemeal bread. Try to do some regular, gentle exercise too.
Vismodegib may affect your skin. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect. If your skin feels dry, try using an unperfumed moisturising cream every day. Vismodegib can cause a rash, which may be itchy. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any skin changes. They can give you advice and may prescribe creams or medicines to help. Any changes to your skin are usually temporary and improve when treatment finishes.
Changes in the way the liver works
Vismodegib may affect how your liver works. This is usually mild and goes back to normal after treatment. You will have blood tests to check how well your liver is working.
Less common side effects of vismodegibBack to top
Other skin cancers
Sometimes, people who have a basal cell skin cancer may develop another type of skin cancer called squamous cell skin cancer (SCC). This may happen during treatment with vismodegib. Most people treated for SCC are completely cured with simple treatment.
You will be asked to check your skin regularly to look for any of the following changes:
- a small tender lump on your skin
- an area on your skin that looks scaly, bleeds or has a hard cap.
Your specialist nurse or doctor will explain more about this and check your skin. If you notice anything unusual between appointments, let your specialist nurse or doctor know.
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.
Other information about vismodegibBack to top
Some medicines, including those you can buy in a shop or chemist, can be harmful to take while you are taking vismodegib. St Johns wort may affect how vismodegib works. Tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including ones you can buy for yourself, complementary therapies and herbal drugs.
Doctors don’t yet know how vismodegib may affect your fertility. If you are worried about this, talk to your doctor before treatment starts.
Changes to your periods
Vismodegib can sometimes stop the ovaries working. You may not get a period every month and they may eventually stop. In some women this is temporary, but for others it is permanent and they start the menopause.
Women are advised not to breastfeed during treatment and for 24 months after. This is in case there is any of the drug in their breast milk.
Medical or dental treatment
If you need to go into hospital for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are taking vismodegib. Tell them the name of your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.
Always tell your dentist you are taking vismodegib.
This page has been compiled using information from a number of reliable sources, including the electronic Medicines Compendium (medicines.org.uk). If you’d like further information on the sources we use, please feel free to contact us.
This information was reviewed by a medical professional.
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