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Multiple Myeloma Revlimid Side Effects

By Helen Williams ; Updated August 14, 2017

Revlimid, manufactured by Celgene, is a derivative of of thalidomide that has extended survival in patients with relapsed multiple myeloma. Some oncologists use it in newly diagnosed patients as well reports the International Myeloma Foundation. Although Revlimid is less toxic than thalidomide, patients may experience side effects, particularly since it is often used in combination with dexamethasone, a chemotherapeutic drug. Some side effects are serious and may necessitate altering treatment while others may be managed with medication or lowering the dose.

Blood Clots

According to the Food and Drug Administration, Revlimid can cause blood clots. Swelling, redness, or tenderness in the leg or arm signify a clot in the deep veins and requires patients to immediately notify a health care professional. Shortness of breath or chest pain indicate a pulmonary embolism, a clot that blocks blood flow to the lungs.

Low Blood Counts

According to Revlimid's medication guide, another potentially serious side effect is low counts of white blood cells, known as neutropenia; platelets, known as thrombocytopenia; and red blood cells, known as anemia. Symptoms of low blood counts include weakness and fatigue, excessive or easy bruising and unusual bleeding. Recurring fever and infection is a sign of neutropenia. People with multiple myeloma should have regular blood tests to confirm their counts are in a safe range.

Birth Defects

Revlimid may cause birth defects. The manufacturer reports that it has not been tested in pregnant women, however, it is chemically similar to thalidomide, which caused numerous defects to babies born in the 1950s. According to the FDA, female patients must not get pregnant while taking Revlimid and for four weeks before and after treatment. Male patients should avoid impregnating women, as it is unknown if Revlimid passes into semen. According to Revlimid's medication guide, tests have established that the drug causes fetal damage in animals. To limit the possibility of harm to unborn children, Revlimid is restricted to patients and pharmacists who enroll in RevAssist, a carefully managed distribution program.

Gastrointestinal Effects

According to Revlimid's medication guide, diarrhea is a common side effect. It can last longer than a few days. Revlimid causes stomach upset and constipation, particularly when used with dexamethasone. Severe constipation is rare, however, mild constipation occurs often.

Other Effects

According to Revlimid's medication guide, insomnia, fatigue, and itching are common side effects. Another common effect is rash, which may simply appear as mild irritation. In some cases, the skin notably changes color. Muscle cramps--a sudden pain or hardening in the muscle--is also a common side effect of this drug.

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