Abiraterone for prostate cancer

  • Take four tablets once a day. Swallow the tablets whole, with water.
  • Do not take abiraterone with food. Wait two hours after eating food before you take the tablets, and do not eat for one hour after taking the tablets.
  • You will also be prescribed another medicine (either prednisone or prednisolone) to take alongside abiraterone.

About abiraterone

Type of medicine Anti-androgen
Used for Advanced prostate cancer
Also called Zytiga®
Available as Tablets

In some men with prostate cancer, the disease is aggressive and cancer cells spread to parts of the body other than the prostate. When this happens, it is referred to as late or advanced prostate cancer. Standard treatment options for this type of cancer include hormone treatment, surgery, and chemotherapy. For many years there have been limited options for treatments which alter the course of advanced prostate cancer once all these standard treatments have been exhausted. Recently, abiraterone has been added to these options, as it has been shown to extend life for up to three months in men with the disease which hasn't responded to other treatments.

Abiraterone belongs to a group of medicines known as anti-androgens. This means that it reduces the amount of male sex hormones (called androgens) that your body produces. In prostate cancer, androgens are produced by your testes, by your adrenal glands, and in the tumour cells. Abiraterone reduces the amount of androgens produced by each of these, and this slows the growth of the cancer.

Abiraterone will be prescribed for you alongside another medicine, either prednisone or prednisolone. These medicines reduce the risk of unwanted effects of abiraterone treatment.

Before taking abiraterone

Sometimes a medicine may only be used in people with certain conditions if extra care is taken. For this reason, before you start taking abiraterone it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you have been told you have high blood pressure, or low levels of potassium in your blood.
  • If you have heart or blood vessel problems.
  • If you have any problems with your liver or kidneys.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any medicine.

How to take abiraterone

  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about abiraterone, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
  • Take abiraterone exactly as your doctor has told you. The usual dose is four tablets once a day. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack.
  • You must take the tablets when your stomach is empty. This means you should take abiraterone at least an hour before eating food, or wait until at least two hours after you have eaten. This is because taking abiraterone with food will increase the amount of medicine in your blood, and this will cause side-effects.
  • You should swallow the tablets whole with water. Do not crush or break the tablets to swallow them.
  • Try to take abiraterone at the same time each day. This will help you to remember to take your doses.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have regular blood tests to check on the amount of potassium in your blood and how well your liver is working. Your doctor will also want to check your blood pressure routinely.
  • It is important that you do not stop taking the prednisone or prednisolone tablets that you are taking alongside abiraterone. Stopping taking these tablets without your doctor knowing will cause problems.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking. This is important because your dose of prednisone or prednisolone may need to be increased for a short while.
  • Abiraterone may harm an unborn child. This means that if you are having sex with a woman who could become pregnant, you must use a condom along with another effective birth control method. If you are having sex with a woman who is already pregnant, you must use a condom to protect the unborn child.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with your other medicines.

Can abiraterone cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common abiraterone side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling pain on passing urine or needing to pass urine more frequently Let your doctor know about this as they may be signs that you have a urinary tract infection
Swollen legs, feet, or ankles (due to fluid retention) Keep your feet elevated as much as possible
Chest pain, feeling of a fast heartbeat Let your doctor know about this as soon as possible
High blood pressure, low levels of potassium in your blood, increased levels of triglycerides (fats) in your blood, heart problems Your doctor will be monitoring your progress and will check for these

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to abiraterone, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store abiraterone

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.