Porfimer Sodium (POR-fi-mer SOE-dee-um)
Treats symptoms of cancer in the esophagus or lungs. Also treats changes in the esophagus (the part of the digestive tract that carries food to the stomach) that might lead to cancer. These changes are called "Barrett's esophagus" or "BE". This medicine is always used with laser light therapy (photodynamic therapy).
There may be other brand names for this medicine.
When This Medicine Should Not Be Used
You should not receive this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to porfimer or other porphyrin medicines such as hemin (Panhematin®). Do not receive this medicine if you have porphyria (a problem with enzymes in your body) or if you have a tumor that is causing problems with a blood vessel. You should not receive this medicine if you have swollen veins, large ulcers (sores), or a hole in your esophagus or lungs.
How to Use This Medicine
- Your doctor will prescribe your exact dose and tell you how often it should be given. This medicine is given through a needle placed in one of your veins.
- You will receive this medicine while you are in a hospital or cancer treatment center. A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
- You should receive laser light therapy 40 to 50 hours after you receive your dose of porfimer. The laser light will cause changes in the medicine so the medicine can destroy certain cells in your esophagus or lungs. The laser creates red light, not heat, so you should not feel any burning. You might need to have a second laser light treatment (but not more medicine) a few days after the first one.
- Your doctor might want you to receive one or two more treatments of medicine plus laser light. For cancer therapy, you will need to wait at least 30 days between treatments. For Barrett's esophagus therapy, you will need to wait at least 90 days between treatments.
If a dose is missed:
- Call your doctor, pharmacist, or treatment clinic for instructions. It is very important for you to receive this medicine at the correct time.
Drugs and Foods to Avoid
Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.
- Make sure your doctor knows if you are also using any other medicine that could make you sensitive to light. This includes many antibiotic medicines, such as griseofulvin (Grisactin®), tetracyclines (such as doxycycline, minocycline, or Vibramycin®), quinolones (such as ciprofloxacin, Cipro®, or Levaquin®), or sulfonamides or "sulfa" drugs (such as sulfamethoxazole, Bactrim®, or Septra®). Some other medicines that cause light sensitivity are phenothiazines (such as prochlorperazine, Compazine®, Phenergan®, Serentil®, or Thorazine®), diabetes medicines that you take by mouth (such as glipizide, glyburide, Glucophage®, or Glucotrol®), or diuretics or "water pills" (such as hydrochlorothiazide).
- Make sure your doctor knows if you are also receiving radiation therapy. You need to wait 2 to 4 weeks between phototherapy and radiation therapy.
Warnings While Using This Medicine
- Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, heart or blood vessel disease, or had a recent surgery. Tell your doctor if you cannot move for a long time (prolonged immobilization).
- This medicine will make your skin and eyes more sensitive to light. Be very careful to avoid direct sunlight and bright lights, even when you are indoors. Sunscreen or sunblock will not protect you. Protect your self from light by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, gloves, socks, and long-sleeved shirt and pants whenever you go outside. Have curtains or shades covering your windows and skylights. Do not use a hair dryer that fits over your head, such as the hair dryers in beauty salons.
- Regular, indirect indoor light should not bother your skin or eyes. Some indoor light will be good for you, because it will help clear this medicine from your body faster.
- Your eyes and the skin around your eyes may be more sensitive to light than the rest of your skin. Wear dark sunglasses whenever you go outside. Be careful when driving, because bright headlights could also bother you.
- You will probably be sensitive to light for at least 30 days, and possibly even 90 days after receiving this medicine.
- Test your skin to see if you are still sensitive to sunlight after 30 days. One way you can do this is to cut a small hole in a paper bag, then put your hand in the bag and hold it in direct sunlight for 10 minutes. Keep your arm and the rest of your body covered and in the shade. If you have a skin reaction within the next 24 hours, then your skin is still sensitive. A reaction would be redness, swelling, or blistering (like a sunburn). If you have a skin reaction, keep protecting your eyes and skin for another 2 weeks, then try the test again. If you do not have a reaction within 24 hours, then you can gradually start being in the light again.
- Using this medicine by itself will not help the problems in your lungs or esophagus. You must also receive light therapy 40 to 50 hours after receiving this medicine. You might also need a special procedure to clean the treated area in your esophagus or lungs.
- You might have pain around your chest after your treatment. If you have pain, talk with your doctor about the best way to treat it.
- If you are using this medicine to treat Barrett's esophagus, your chance of having narrowing of the esophagus may be increased. Check with your doctor right away if you start to have trouble with swallowing after you have received this medicine.
- Blood clotting problems may occur in patients after receiving this medicine. Check with your doctor if you have pain in the chest, groin, or legs, especially the calves; difficulty with breathing; severe, sudden headache; slurred speech; sudden, unexplained shortness of breath; sudden loss of coordination; sudden, severe weakness or numbness in the arm or leg; or vision changes.
- Your doctor will need to check your progress at regular visits after you receive these treatments. Be sure to keep all appointments.
Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine
Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:
- Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
- Change in how much or how often you urinate, or painful urination.
- Chest pain, tightness, or discomfort.
- Coughing up blood.
- Dry mouth, increased thirst, or muscle cramps.
- Fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat.
- Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches.
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.
- Numbness or weakness in your arm or leg, or on one side of your body.
- Pain in your lower leg (calf).
- Red or black stools.
- Severe skin blisters, burning, itching, peeling, or redness.
- Shortness of breath, cold sweats, and bluish-colored skin.
- Sores or white patches on your lips, mouth, or throat.
- Sudden or severe headache, or problems with vision, speech, or walking.
- Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet.
- Trouble with swallowing.
- Unusual bleeding or bruising.
- Unusual tiredness or weakness.
If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:
- Anxiety, confusion, or trouble sleeping.
- Back pain.
- Constipation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain or upset.
- Loss of appetite.
- Pain, itching, burning, swelling, or a lump under your skin where the needle is placed.
- Weight loss.
If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088
- Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013
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This page was last updated: September 18, 2013