What is Cetuximab?

Cetuximab is an anti-cancer medication prescribed to treat Head and Neck cancer, colon and rectum cancer. This medication is advised to use under medical supervision only. Not advised to use in patients less than 18 years old.

Type of drug

Cetuximab belongs to signal transduction inhibitor class of medicine which is known as monoclonal antibody and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor in medical terminology.

Use in brief

Cetuximab is prescribed to use in the treatment of Head and Neck cancer, colon and rectum cancers with specific gene mutations.


Cetuximab itself is an active ingredient in branded medicine like Erbitux 5 mg Infusion.


Cetuximab is prescribed in the treatment of below mentioned health conditions

  • In combination with radiation therapy in the treatment of certain type of locally or regionally advanced head and neck cancer.
  • In combination with platinum based chemotherapy and fluorouracil for the initial treatment of head and neck cancers that have re-occurred or advanced.
  • Cancers of colon and rectum that has spread to other parts of the body, whose tumours are only of KRAS mutation-negative type and whose tumours which have epidermal growth factor receptor.

How does Cetuximab work?

This medicine basically belongs to anti-cancer type of drugs and works by blocking Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors (EGFR) that trigger the multiplication of cancer causing cells and helps to slow down or stop the spread of cancer causing cells.

Read about medications used to treat blood cancer

How to Take Cetuximab?

Form of medicine – Cetuximab medicine is available in the form of injection and infusion for IV (intravenous).

When and How to use?

Generally, it is administered by trained medical professionals in hospital environment. Not for self-administration. Usage is not dependent on food timings. Follow the instruction given by your doctor.

Common Dosage

Premedication with an H1 antagonist (e.g., 50 mg diphenhydramine) IV 30 to 60 minutes prior to the first dose.

Initial Dose:  400 mg/m2  IV over  120 minutes (maximum infusion rate  10 mg/min)
Maintenance Dose:  250 mg/m2 IV over 60 minutes once a week (maximum infusion rate 10 mg/min)   

However dosage depends on the severity of the health condition been treated and is decided by the doctor. Follow the instruction by your doctor.

When to Avoid Cetuximab?

Cetuximab is not advised to use in some health conditions such as:

  • Allergic reaction towards the Cetuximab medication
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding

Advised to use with precautions and medical supervision in below mentioned health conditions

  • Patients susceptible to Infusion-related reactions
  • Skin reactions
  • Patients with Cardiovascular disorders
  •  Eye disorders
  • Usage of an effective Contraceptive method is advised to avoid pregnancy while under the treatment of this medicine and 6weeks after the treatment.
  • Chance of getting lung toxicity, Electrolyte disturbances, infections and skin reactions is higher with this medicine hence it is advised to share all medical details and allergies you have with the doctor before undergoing the treatment.

Side-effects of Cetuximab

Cetuximab may possibly show some side effects in some patients. It is advised to consult your doctor if any of such side effects are noticed and if they are prolonged. Below mentioned are some possible side effects by Cetuximab. It may show side effects that are not mentioned here in this list.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Skin Reactions
  • Headache
  • Low magnesium levels in the blood
  • Infections
  • Dizziness
  • Cough
  • Unusual  tiredness or weakness

Effects on organs:

This medicine may possibly show adverse effects on organs like heart, eyes, and skin allergies. It is advised to use with extreme precautions and medical supervision in case of severe health disorders or impairment related to eyes, skin, and heart. It is advised to consult the doctor and share detailed information about the current health condition so that the doctor can alter the dosage depending on the patient’s health condition.

Reported Allergic Reactions?

 This drug can cause serious infusion reactions. It is not recommended in patients who have known allergic reactions towards Cetuximab. Precaution has to be taken in case of known issues of skin disorders, eye disorders, and heart-related issues. 

Effect on menstrual cycle

Effect on the menstrual cycle is not clinically established. You may consult your gynaecologist.

Drug  Interactions to Be Careful About:

Cetuximab has the possibility of showing drug interaction if used along with the below mentioned list of medicine.

It is advised to share the medication details that you might be using any with your doctor before he prescribes this medicine to you.

Interactions with health conditions

Cetuximab may possibly show adverse effects in some health conditions and it is advised to use this medicine with extreme precautions and medical supervision. Below mentioned are some disease interactions that Cetuximab may show.

  • Cardiac dysfunction
  • Eye disorders
  • Renal impairment
  • Lung Toxicity
  • Skin diseases
  • Electrolyte Imbalance

Food interactions

Limited data is available on food interaction that Cetuximab may possibly show. Follow the guidelines mentioned in the prescription as a safety precaution.

Interactions with laboratory procedures

All the electrolytes should be monitored during and after the infusion. Magnesium levels should be monitored during and at least until 8 weeks post infusion. It is always good to share details about your current medication before attending any lab tests so that you doctor and lab technician are aware off.

Is Cetuximab Addictive?

No drug addiction is noticed in case of Cetuximab.

Can I have Cetuximab with alcohol?

Limited data is available about the effect of Cetuximab if consumed with alcohol. Consult your doctor if you have a habit of taking alcohol at regular basis.

Can I have Cetuximab When Pregnant?

Not advised to use in general in pregnant women.

Can I have Cetuximab when feeding a baby?

Not advised to use in general in breastfeeding women. But with consultation and supervision in case if unavoidable and the intended benefits are more compared to possible side effects. If this medicine is prescribed during breastfeeding, your doctor may advise you to discontinue breastfeeding until the treatment is completed.

Can I drive after taking Cetuximab?

Cetuximab may affect the alertness, hence operating activities such as driving vehicle or operating heavy machinery is not advised.  

Effect of overdose

Overdosing does not happen as it is given by trained medical professionals. Serious adverse effects may be possible if overdosage happens in large quantities. Emergency medical care shall be taken if any overdosage happens.

Effect of using expired Cetuximab?

Cetuximab is given by medical professionals and the chance of getting an expired medicine is rare. It is advised not to use any medicine that is expired to avoid any adverse effects. Consult your doctor immediately if any adverse effects are noticed by taking any expired medicine. It is advised to check the label while purchasing the medicine to verify the expiry date to be safe.

Effect of missing a dose

Chances of missing the dosage are very rare as the medicine is administered under medical supervision in hospital environment. If you miss certain schedule to take the injection, consult your doctor immediately for further guidance.

Storage requirements

This medicine is administered in hospital environment and is stored in refrigerator.

Different Brands of Cetuximab medicine available

Below mentioned is the available brand of medicine that contains Cetuximab as key ingredient, and your doctor may prescribe this to treat the condition.

  • Erbitux – Manufactured by Merck India Ltd.


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