What you should know about Vinorelbine and Navelbine: uses and availability

Vinorelbine is a type of chemotherapy drug which belongs to the vinca alkaloids drug class. A class is a grouping of drugs that work in the same way.

Vinca alkaloids are made from compounds of the Madagascan periwinkle. This class of drugs is the second most commonly used type of treatment for cancer.

They work by preventing cancer cells from dividing, which prevents the growth and spread of cancer.

In this article, we’ll go over vinorelbine uses, side effects, and other important information.

What is Navelbine?

Navelbine was a branded version of vinorelbine, a prescription drug used to treat certain types of cancer. Navelbine is no longer available in the United States.

Instead, what is available is the generic drug. Generic versions of brand name drugs have the same active ingredient and work in exactly the same way. Generally, generic drugs are cheaper.

Why was Navelbine abandoned?

The manufacturer, Pierre Fabre Médicament, has stopped Navelbine. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is if the brand name drug is no longer making a big profit for the manufacturer.

Often, when the generic form of the drug becomes available, it is cheaper. Your healthcare professional can switch you from the brand name drug to the generic option to help save you money.

Metastatic NSCLC treatment

Vinorelbine is approved for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Lung cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the world (11.4%), after female breast cancer (11.7%). NSCLC is also the most common type of lung cancer.

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer is based on staging the size of a cancerous tumor and whether it has spread. Stages range from 1 to 4. Metastatic means the cancer has spread from one place to other parts of the body or the bloodstream.

Treatment for other types of cancer

Vinorelbine can also be used off-label to treat other types of cancer. It is when a drug is used for purposes other than its approved uses.

Your doctor can tell you more about other types of cancer that vinorelbine can be used to treat.

Vinorelbine is approved to treat metastatic NSCLC alone or in combination with other chemotherapy-type drugs in adults. It is not known if vinorelbine is safe for children.

Vinorelbine is used:

  • as a first choice chemotherapy treatment with cisplatin (another chemotherapy drug) for cancer that spreads locally to nearby tissues or lymph nodes or spreads to other parts of the body
  • alone for metastatic NSCLC

Vinorelbine is given intravenously (IV) as an injection or infusion directly into a vein. Your dose of vinorelbine depends on:

  • if you are given vinorelbine alone or with another medicine
  • your body size
  • the type of cancer being treated
  • how well you tolerate treatment with vinorelbine (for example, if you have problems with blood counts or constipation)

You will receive your dose of vinorelbine at your doctor’s office or clinic by a healthcare professional. They will monitor you during and after your dose to make sure that you do not experience serious side effects from the injection.

How often is vinorelbine taken?

Vinorelbine is usually given once a week if used alone. When given with another chemotherapy drug (cisplatin), the dose and timing will depend on the dose of cisplatin. Your doctor can tell you more about the vinorelbine dosage and your treatment plan.

Your dosage of vinorelbine may be adjusted depending on your tolerance to treatment. Your doctor may also suspend or stop treatment with vinorelbine if you experience serious side effects from the medicine, such as a low blood cell count or other serious reactions.

You may experience side effects from vinorelbine. The drug has common and serious side effects. Be aware that some sensations may also be due to your cancer. Your doctor will discuss the possible side effects of vinorelbine before starting treatment.

Some side effects include:

Your doctor can tell you more about the side effects of the medication and what to expect. You may also experience side effects that are different from other cancer treatments that you receive with vinorelbine.

What affects the side effects?

The side effects of vinorelbine may depend on:

  • your age
  • genetic factors
  • other health problems you may have
  • if you are receiving other treatment for cancer
  • your dose of vinorelbine

If you have an allergic reaction or other side effect to vinorelbine, call your doctor immediately. But if it’s a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

FDA framed warning

Vinorelbine has a framed warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the most serious warning about a drug.

Vinorelbine can cause severe myelosuppression (low blood cell count), which can increase the risk of serious infections, septic shock and lead to hospitalization and, in rare cases, death.

Your doctor will monitor your bone marrow suppression while you are taking vinorelbine. If you experience myelosuppression, your doctor may reduce the dose or stop vinorelbine according to the recommended guidelines for the drug.

Vinorelbine may not be suitable for you if you have certain health conditions. Tell your doctor about all your health concerns, including if you have ever had liver problems, before you start treatment with vinorelbine. Your doctor will monitor you carefully for side effects while you are receiving vinorelbine.

In post-marketing reports of vinorelbine, blood clots and other damage to blood vessels have been mentioned. If you have a history of blood clots, blood pressure problems, or other cardiovascular problems, tell your doctor. They will discuss the benefits and risks of treatment with vinorelbine with you.

  • Myelosuppression: Vinorelbine can cause very low blood counts, including anemia, leukopenia or thrombocytopenia. This can increase your risk of serious infections, septic shock, hospitalization and, in rare cases, death. Your doctor will monitor you for signs of myelosuppression and treat you if necessary.
  • Liver damage: Vinorelbine can cause liver damage. If you have a history of liver disease, tell your doctor. They will monitor your liver function during treatment with vinorelbine.
  • Extravasation: Vinorelbine injection may seep into surrounding tissue and cause irritation and tissue damage.
  • Nerve damage: Vinorelbine can cause nerve damage and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Damage to the lungs: Vinorelbine can cause serious damage to the lungs, leading to breathing problems such as bronchospasm, inflammation of the lungs, or acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Allergic reaction: Some people may have an allergic reaction to vinorelbine. It can be mild or severe.

Signs of allergic reaction to vinorelbine

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include a rash, itching, and flushing (temporary warmth or redness of the skin). Signs of a serious allergic reaction include difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, tongue, hands, and other parts of the body. If you are suffering from a severe allergic reaction, get immediate medical help by calling 911 or going to an emergency medical center.

Vinorelbine is not safe to use during pregnancy due to serious side effects that can harm the unborn child. If you are a woman, your doctor will take a pregnancy test before you start treatment with vinorelbine. Your doctor will discuss the risks of using vinorelbine during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant, your doctor will discuss treatment options that may be safer for you and your unborn baby.

Recommendations for sex if you are receiving vinorelbine

If you are a woman, use a barrier method of contraception (condom) for intercourse during treatment with vinorelbine and for 6 months after the last dose.

If you are a man, use a barrier method of contraception (condom) for sex with a female partner during your treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose of vinorelbine.

We use the terms “male” and “female” to refer to the sex of a person assigned at birth.

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including over the counter products. Some types of drugs can interact with vinorelbine and affect how vinorelbine works.

Some possible drug interactions include:

Live vaccines and vinorelbine

Avoid taking live vaccines while you are taking vinorelbine. This is because the medicine can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of serious infection. Examples of live vaccines are:

  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella
  • polio
  • yellow fever

You can receive a live vaccine 6 months after your treatment is finished. Your doctor can tell you more about which vaccines are safe and which ones to avoid. The flu and COVID-19 vaccines are not alive. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to take them while taking vinorelbine.

Your doctor or pharmacist can give you more information about interactions and what to avoid while taking vinorelbine.

Vinorelbine is an effective drug that has helped improve Survival rate in people with advanced NSCLC. The stage of your lung cancer, your general health, your tolerance to treatment with vinorelbine and other factors determine your prognosis.

Your doctor can provide more information about your diagnosis, treatment options, and available resources to help you navigate your treatment.

Vinorelbine has common side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite, changes in taste and smell. But there are therapies that can help relieve some of these symptoms. Be sure to drink plenty of water and follow a high fiber diet to avoid constipation with vinorelbine.

If you’re interested in learning more about cancer and NSCLC, here are some resources:

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