Leucovorin (folinic acid)

Leucovorin (folinic acid) is not a chemotherapy drug. It is often given as part of chemotherapy treatment to increase effectiveness or reduce side effects.

It is best to read this information with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.

Leucovorin can be given into a vein or taken as tablets. You usually have it as an outpatient or during a hospital stay. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you how often you will have it.

All cancer treatments can cause side effects so it is important to read the detailed information about the drugs that you are given.

If you notice any side effects that you think may be related to your cancer treatment, tell your doctor, chemotherapy nurse or pharmacist.

If you need medical attention for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare staff that you are having this treatment.

What is leucovorin?

Leucovorin is not a chemotherapy drug. It is often given as part of chemotherapy treatment to increase effectiveness or reduce side effects.

This information is about leucovorin when it's given with the chemotherapy drugs fluorouracil (5FU) or methotrexate.

It should ideally be read with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.

Leucovorin is often given with 5FU to treat cancers of the colon, rectum and other parts of the digestive system.

Adding leucovorin has been shown to increase the effectiveness of 5FU. Leucovorin may also be given with the chemotherapy drug tegafur-uracil (Uftoral®), which is similar to 5FU.

Leucovorin is commonly given with methotrexate, 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 or leucovorin rescue.


How leucovorin is given

You will usually be given leucovorin in the chemotherapy day unit or during a stay in hospital. A chemotherapy nurse will give it to you. During treatment you will usually see a cancer doctor, a chemotherapy nurse or a specialist nurse. This is who we mean when we mention doctor or nurse in this information.

Your nurse will give you the leucovorin as an injection through one of the following:

  • a short thin tube that the nurse puts into a vein in your arm or hand (cannula)
  • a fine tube that goes under the skin of your chest and into a vein close by (central line)
  • a fine tube that is put into a vein in your arm and goes up into a vein in your chest (PICC line).

Leucovorin may also be given as tablets. Before you leave hospital, the nurse or pharmacist will give you the tablets to take at home. It’s important to take your tablets exactly as explained. This is to make sure they work as well as possible for 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 are 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).


Possible side effects of leucovorin

Side effects of leucovorin are rare. Sometimes you may have a high temperature (fever) after the drug has been given. Your doctor may prescribe some tablets to help relieve this. The side effects you have are much more likely to be related to the chemotherapy drugs.

However, if you notice any side effects that you think may be related to the leucovorin, discuss them with your doctor, chemotherapy nurse or pharmacist.

It is important to tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you feel ill or have severe side effects. This includes any we don’t mention here.


Other information about leucovorin

Other medicines

Some medicines can interact with leucovorin or be harmful when you are having leucovorin. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist. Tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, complementary therapies and herbal drugs.