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Aminoglutethimide

(ah-meen-oh-glu-TETH-uh-mide)

Trade/other name(s): Cytadren, Elipten

Why would this drug be used?

Aminoglutethimide is used to treat some cancers, including breast cancer, as well as other conditions.

How does this drug work?

Aminoglutethimide belongs to a group of hormone and hormone-blocking drugs called adrenal steroid inhibitors. It prevents the body’s adrenal glands from making steroid hormones, including estrogen.

Before taking this medicine

Tell your doctor…

  • If you are allergic to anything, including medicines, dyes, additives, or foods.
  • If you have any medical conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease (including hepatitis), heart disease, congestive heart failure, gout, or infections. These conditions may require that your medicine dose, regimen, or timing be changed.
  • If you have had any problems with low thyroid function. Aminoglutethimide may worsen this condition, and your doctor may want to do extra tests to detect this problem early.
  • If you have diabetes or have ever had stomach ulcers. Steroid hormones such as hydrocortisone (which are typically taken with aminoglutethimide) may increase your risk of ulcers and affect blood glucose levels. You and your doctor may need to watch your glucose levels closely while you are getting this drug.
  • If you take any blood pressure medicines or if you have ever had problems with fainting. This drug may lower your blood pressure, which could be dangerous if it is already affected by other medicines.
  • If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or if there is any chance of pregnancy. This drug may cause birth defects if either the male or female is taking it at the time of conception or during pregnancy. Check with your doctor about what kinds of birth control can be used with this medicine.
  • If you are breast-feeding. It is not known whether this drug passes into breast milk. If it does, it could harm the baby.
  • If you think you might want to have children in the future. It is not known whether or not this drug can affect fertility. Talk with your doctor about the possible risk with this drug and the options that may preserve your ability to have children.
  • About any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines you are taking, including vitamins and herbs. In fact, keeping a written list of each of these medicines (including the doses of each and when you take them) with you in case of emergency may help prevent complications if you get sick.

Interactions with other drugs

Aminoglutethimide causes the drug dexamethasone to be removed very quickly from the body. Dexamethasone should not be used with this drug.

It also reduces the effect of warfarin (Coumadin), and your dose may have to be changed.

This drug may make you drowsy. This can add to the effects of other medicines or substances that make you sleepy or less alert, such as:

  • antihistamines
  • anti-anxiety drugs (tranquilizers or sedatives)
  • sleeping pills
  • muscle relaxers
  • barbiturates
  • anti-seizure medicines
  • opioid pain medicines
  • anesthetics
  • antidepressants such as amitriptyline, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, nortriptyline
  • anti-psychotic drugs
  • certain anti-nausea medicines
  • alcohol

Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about whether other medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements can cause problems with this medicine.

Interactions with foods

If you are also taking hydrocortisone or a steroid hormone with this drug, it is best to take it with food to reduce stomach irritation.

No serious interactions with food are known at this time. Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about whether foods may be a problem

Tell all the doctors, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists you visit that you are taking this drug.

How is this drug taken or given?

Aminoglutethimide is taken by mouth in a pill. The dose starts small and is slowly increased. It is taken 2 to 3 times daily, with meals. Your doctor will give you a prescription for a steroid hormone like hydrocortisone to take with the aminoglutethimide.

Take these drugs exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not understand the instructions, your doctor or nurse can explain them to you. Store these medicines in tightly closed containers, away from light, heat, and moisture, where they cannot be reached by children and pets.

Precautions

Aminoglutethimide may make you feel drowsy. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how the drug affects you. Use caution if taking cold or allergy medicines, sedatives, anxiety medicines, or sleeping pills.

Aminoglutethimide must be taken together with hydrocortisone. Without this extra medicine, you might have nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness, dizziness, weakness, difficulty breathing, and pain in the joints (due to not having enough corticosteroid hormone in the body). Call your doctor if you notice these symptoms.

A flat reddish skin rash may develop, but usually goes away within 5 to 8 days. Call your doctor if the rash does not go away after 8 days.

Call your doctor if you have any new illness, injury, or signs of infection.

Be sure any doctors or dentists who are planning surgery or emergency treatment on you are aware that you are on this medicine.

If you notice weakness, dizziness, faintness, or fast heartbeat, call your doctor right away.

Let your doctor know if you notice pain or swelling in the front of your neck, tiredness, depression, rough dry skin, coarse dry hair, weight gain, or poor memory. These can be symptoms of low thyroid function, and your doctor may want to do lab tests.

Possible side effects

You will probably not have most of the following side effects, but if you have any talk to your doctor or nurse. They can help you understand the side effects and cope with them.

Common

  • flat red skin rash, which usually goes away without treatment*
  • drowsiness or sleepiness*

Less common

  • lack of energy
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness when standing or turning around due to low blood pressure*
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite

Rare

  • rhythmic eye movements
  • uncoordinated gait when walking
  • low blood pressure, with dizziness, lightheadedness, fast heartbeat, fainting*
  • low thyroid function, with tiredness, depression, dry skin, coarse dry hair, weight gain, or poor memory*
  • itching
  • abnormal blood test results which suggest that the drug is affecting the liver (Your doctor will discuss the importance of this finding, if any.)

*See "Precautions" section for more detailed information.

There are other side effects not listed above that can also occur in some patients. Tell your doctor or nurse if you develop these or any other problems.

FDA approval

Yes – first approved before 1984 (FDA cannot verify dates of drugs approved before 1984).

Disclaimer: This information does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for talking with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical needs.


Last Medical Review: 12/07/2009
Last Revised: 12/07/2009