What is Verzenio?
If you have a breast cancer, your doctor may prescribe Verzenio for you. Verzenio is a prescription drug that’s used in adults to treat a certain kind of metastatic breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced form of breast cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body. Verzenio treats advanced breast cancer that’s hormone receptor-positive (HR+) and HER2-negative.
If you’d like to learn more about this specific kind of breast cancer and how Verzenio is used to treat it, see the “What is Verzenio used for?” section below.
Verzenio comes as tablets that you’ll take by mouth.
Verzenio contains the active drug abemaciclib. And it belongs to a group of medications called cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 (CDK4/6) inhibitors. Abemaciclib isn’t available as a generic medication. It only comes as the brand-name drug Verzenio.
In this article, we describe Verzenio’s possible side effects, how it’s taken, and more.
What are some frequently asked questions about Verzenio?
You may have questions about Verzenio and how it works compared with other medications. You may also wonder how well Verzenio treats metastatic breast cancer. Below, we’ll take a look at some of these questions in more detail.
How does Verzenio compare with Ibrance?
Verzenio and Ibrance belong to the same group of drugs called kinase inhibitors. And they work in similar ways to stop cancer cells from growing.
These drugs are both used for metastatic breast cancer. (Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced form of breast cancer that has spread from the breast to other parts of the body.)
Verzenio and Ibrance have a lot in common. But they also have some differences, including how they’re used. Here’s an overview of some of the key differences between Verzenio and Ibrance:
- they contain different active ingredients
- they come in different dosage forms and strengths
- they have some different side effects
- Verzenio can be used alone for metastatic breast cancer, but Ibrance is used together with other drugs
- Verzenio is taken twice daily for as long as it’s prescribed, but Ibrance is taken on cycles of 21 days on, followed by 7 days off for as long as it’s prescribed
In studies, Verzenio was shown to be helpful when used by itself after other therapies didn’t work. (These other therapies include hormone treatment and chemotherapy.) Ibrance, on the other hand, isn’t used alone when hormone treatments and chemotherapy haven’t worked. Instead, it’s always used with certain other drugs.
Compared with Ibrance, Verzenio causes more gastrointestinal side effects. These include diarrhea, belly pain, and nausea. It can also cause more fatigue (lack of energy). One common side effect of both Ibrance and Verzenio is neutropenia (low level of certain white blood cells). And this condition can increase your risk of serious infections.
If you’d like, your doctor or pharmacist can give you more information on how Ibrance and Verzenio compare with each other.
How does Verzenio affect the life expectancy of someone with breast cancer?
It’s important to know that cancer can affect each of us differently. And our bodies can respond differently to various treatments. How your body responds to treatment can depend on things such as:
- your genetic makeup
- your overall health and any medical conditions you have
- your age
- any medications you may be taking
Survival rate, which also sometimes called life expectancy, is an estimate of how long someone may live. For people with certain cancers, this estimate is based on everyone who has that kind of cancer. But the estimate doesn’t take into account everyone’s individual factors.
Over the past few years, several new medications including Verzenio, have shown promise for metastatic breast cancer. They’re improving both survival rates and quality of life in people with this kind of cancer.
If you’d like to know more about possible outcomes with Verzenio treatment, talk with your doctor.
What’s the effectiveness of Verzenio?
In clinical studies, Verzenio was effective in treating a certain kind of advanced breast cancer. (For more information about this kind of cancer, see the “What is Verzenio used for?” section below.)
The studies showed that Verzenio was effective when it was used:
- alone, after hormone treatment and chemotherapy didn’t work
- together with hormone treatment
- together with a kind of drug called an aromatase inhibitor (a hormone blocker)
In these studies, Verzenio extended the length of time that people’s cancer didn’t spread or worsen. And more people using Verzenio didn’t have their cancer spread or worsen compared with people not using Verzenio.
If you’d like to learn more about how effective Verzenio is, talk with your doctor.
What are Verzenio’s side effects?
Like most drugs, Verzenio may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Verzenio may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Medication side effects depend on many things such as:
- your genetics, age, and overall health
- any other drugs you may be taking
- how well your liver and kidneys are working
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Verzenio. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that Verzenio can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Verzenio’s Patient Information.
Mild side effects of Verzenio can include:
- nausea or vomiting
- dehydration (low level of fluid in your body)
For most people, mild side effects go away after a few days of using Verzenio. Talk to your doctor if your side effects continue or are concerning to you.
* For more information about diarrhea, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Verzenio can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Verzenio, call your doctor right away. However, if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects* can include:
- allergic reaction
- liver problems
- blood clots
* For more information about these serious side effects, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Side effect focus
Below, you can learn more about some of the side effects Verzenio may cause.
One of the most common side effects of Verzenio is diarrhea. In many cases, it goes away in a few days to weeks.
For some people, diarrhea can be serious. And it may even lead to dehydration. (With dehydration, you have a low level of fluid in your body.)
Some of the medications that are used together with Verzenio (such as fulvestrant) may also cause diarrhea.
It’s important to tell your doctor if your diarrhea lasts for a long time or is severe.
What might help
While you’re taking Verzenio, be sure to stay hydrated to help prevent dehydration. This is especially important to do if you also have nausea or vomiting with treatment. One way to help stay hydrated is to drink lots of fluids.
If you have trouble with diarrhea from Verzenio, your doctor:
- may suggest that you take an anti-diarrheal medication
- may adjust your Verzenio treatment plan
- will carefully monitor you to make sure your condition doesn’t get worse
Blood clots aren’t a common side effect of Verzenio. But they did occur in some people taking Verzenio during clinical trials. In the trials, blood clots occurred in people’s legs, lungs, heart, and brain.
Blood clots are clusters of blood cells that can form in your blood vessels. Clots can travel inside your blood vessels, leading to dangerous conditions such as stroke and heart attack.
Some symptoms of blood clots include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- pain or swelling in your arms or legs
Keep in mind that your risk of blood clots may change based on other medications you’re taking with Verzenio. If you have concerns about your risk of blood clots, talk with your doctor.
What might help
While you’re taking Verzenio, your doctor will carefully monitor you for blood clots. If you develop a blood clot, it’s important that you get treatment right away.
Ask your doctor about your risk of blood clots with Verzenio treatment. And be sure to let your doctor know if you’ve had blood clots in the past. If you have any symptoms of blood clot, call your doctor right away.
Some people taking Verzenio have had problems with their liver. This isn’t a common side effect of Verzenio, but it can be a serious one.
Some symptoms of liver problems may include:
- dark colored urine
- yellowing of the whites of your eyes or your skin
- low appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- pain in the upper right side of your belly
- easily bruising or bleeding
What might help
Before you start taking Verzenio, your doctor will order blood tests to check your liver function. And they’ll order these tests while you’re taking the drug to keep monitoring the health of your liver.
If you’re taking other drugs with Verzenio, those drugs may also affect how well your liver works.
So, it’s important to talk with your doctor about all the medications, supplements, and over-the-counter products you’re taking. And be sure to call your doctor if you have any symptoms of liver problems while you’re taking Verzenio.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Verzenio.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (warmth, swelling, or redness in your skin)
Some people may have a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis with Verzenio. This reaction can be life threatening, so it’s important to recognize its symptoms so you can get help right away if needed.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:
- swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
- swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Verzenio. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
How is Verzenio taken?
Your doctor will explain how you should take Verzenio. They’ll also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Verzenio comes as tablets that you’ll take by mouth.
You can take Verzenio with or without food. But keep in mind that taking it with high-fat meals may affect how Verzenio works. Also, you shouldn’t take Verzenio with grapefruit or grapefruit juice. Doing so can also change how Verzenio works in your body. If you have questions, ask your pharmacist for more information about taking Verzenio with food.
Verzenio is taken twice a day. You’ll take the medication around the same times every day.
Your doctor may prescribe Verzenio by itself or together with other medications for your condition.
Your Verzenio dosage will depend on whether it’s used alone or taken with other medications. Your dosage also depends on your overall health, any other medications you take, and other conditions you may have. Your doctor will recommend the Verzenio dosage that’s right for you.
If needed, your doctor may adjust your dosage of Verzenio. For example, your dosage may be changed based on your age or how well your liver and kidneys are working.
Taking Verzenio with other medications
In certain situations, your doctor may have you take Verzenio with certain other medications. These other medications include:
- fulvestrant (Faslodex)
- letrozole (Femara)
Questions about taking Verzenio
Here are some answers to common questions about taking Verzenio.
- What if I miss a dose of Verzenio? If you miss a dose of Verzenio, don’t double your next dose. Instead, just take the next dose as usual at the scheduled time. And consider using a reminder app or timer to help you remember to take your medication as prescribed.
- Will I need to use Verzenio long term? Your doctor will recommend how long you’ll need to take Verzenio. And it’ll depend on how your body responds to the medication treatment. As long as your body is responding well to the medication, your doctor may have you keep taking it long term.
- Can Verzenio be chewed, crushed, or split? No, you shouldn’t crush, split, or chew Verzenio tablets. There isn’t any information available to know whether doing so changes how the medication works. If you have trouble swallowing Verzenio tablets, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.
- Should I take Verzenio with food? Verzenio can be taken with or without food. Keep in mind that the drug can cause side effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. So, you can see if it works better for you to take it with food or on an empty stomach. And be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any serious side effects including belly pain, severe diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
- How long does Verzenio take to work? Verzenio starts working soon after you take a dose. Your doctor will monitor how you are doing, and they’ll make sure the drug is working for your condition. Talk with your doctor about how your condition will be monitored during Verzenio treatment. They’ll help you understand what to expect with this drug.
You may have questions about taking Verzenio and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all of your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions like:
- how will Verzenio affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare providers are here to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
What is Verzenio used for?
If you have breast cancer, your doctor may prescribe Verzenio for you. Verzenio is a prescription drug that’s used to treat a kind of metastatic breast cancer in adults.
Metastatic breast cancer is an advanced form of breast cancer that has spread from your breast to other parts of your body.
Verzenio treats metastatic breast cancer that’s hormone receptor-positive (HR+) and HER2-negative. Having HR+ breast cancer means that hormones encourage the cancer to grow. And having HER2-negative breast cancer means the cancer cells don’t have certain proteins on them.
Verzenio is prescribed:
- by itself in males and females* after past hormone treatment and chemotherapy didn’t work and their cancer became more advanced
- together with a kind of drug called an aromatase inhibitor (a hormone blocker) in females who’ve gone through menopause and who haven’t used a hormone treatment for the cancer in the past
- together with a drug called fulvestrant in females who’ve used hormone treatment in the past but it didn’t work
Across the world, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that affects females. Although it’s less common, breast cancer also affects males.
Verzenio works by preventing cancer cells from making more cancer cells. By doing this, Verzenio helps people with cancer to live longer and have a better quality of life.
* In this article, the terms “male” and “female” refer to a person’s sex assigned at birth.
What should be considered before taking Verzenio?
Some important points to discuss with your doctor when considering Verzenio treatment include:
- your overall health
- any medical conditions you may have
See the sections below to learn about these and other things to consider before starting this drug.
Taking medications, vaccines, foods, and other things with a certain drug can affect how the drug works. These effects are called interactions. Verzenio can interact with some medications, foods, and supplements.
Before taking Verzenio, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take (including prescription and over-the-counter types). Also describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these products may cause with Verzenio.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Many medications, including Verzenio, are broken down in your liver by an enzyme (type of protein) called CYP3A. This is how the medications get cleared from your body.
Some medications affect how CYP3A works. For instance:
- CYP3A inhibitors slow the removal of Verzenio from your body. And this can increase your side effects from Verzenio.
- CYP3A inducers speed up the removal of Verzenio from your body. And this can make Verzenio less effective for you.
Examples of medications that are CYP3A inhibitors include:
- the antibiotic clarithromycin (Biaxin)
- the antifungal ketoconazole (Nizoral)
Examples of medications that are CYP3A inducers include:
- the antibiotic rifampin
- the HIV drug efavirenz (Sustiva)
- the narcolepsy drug modafinil
These lists don’t contain all types of drugs that may interact with Verzenio. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with use of Verzenio.
You shouldn’t drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruit with Verzenio. Doing so can increase the effect of Verzenio in your body. And this may lead to increased side effects of the drug.
Verzenio may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Verzenio. Factors to consider include those in the list below.
Liver or kidney problems. If you have liver or kidney problems, your doctor may adjust your dosage of Verzenio. But in some cases, you may not be able to take this medication. Before you start taking Verzenio, your doctor will order blood work to check the health of your liver and kidneys. And they’ll order these tests during your treatment to make sure your liver and kidneys are working well.
Infection. If you have an infection, your doctor may wait to have you start Verzenio until the infection is treated. This will help you to avoid having complications of the infection.
Blood disorders. Verzenio can lower your blood cell levels. If your blood cell levels are already low, your doctor may have you wait to start Verzenio. This is because it can be dangerous to take the drug while your blood cell levels are low.
Problems with your immune system. Verzenio may lower the activity of your immune system. And this makes you more susceptible to getting infections. Before you start Verzenio, your doctor will order tests to see how well your immune system is working. And they’ll continue to check on your immune system during your treatment with Verzenio.
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Verzenio or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Verzenio. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options.
Use with alcohol
There aren’t any known interactions between Verzenio and alcohol. But, alcohol and Verzenio can both affect your liver. So be sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe to drink alcohol while you’re taking Verzenio.
Also, keep in mind alcohol may also increase some side effects with Verzenio, such as:
- dehydration (low level of fluid in your body)
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
You shouldn’t take Verzenio if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. You should also avoid taking this drug if you’re breastfeeding. There isn’t any information available on use of Verzenio during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
If you have questions about the risks and benefits of using Verzenio during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, talk with your doctor.
What does Verzenio cost?
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use. To find current prices for Verzenio tablets in your area, visit WellRx.
If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Verzenio manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.
What should be done in case of overdose?
Don’t take more Verzenio than your doctor prescribes. Using more than this can lead to serious side effects.
What to do in case you take too much Verzenio
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Verzenio. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers, or use their online resource. However, if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 (or your local emergency number) or go to the nearest emergency room.
Ask your doctor
Verzenio is used to treat a certain kind of metastatic breast cancer. This drug can be used alone or together with other medications.
There are many other treatment options for metastatic breast cancer that you can also consider. Check out this article to learn about other treatment options you may want to discuss with your doctor.
Also, talk with your doctor about complementary therapies that may support your well-being while you’re taking Verzenio. Complementary therapies include acupuncture, yoga, massage, and diet and exercise programs.
Before starting Verzenio, ask your doctor any questions you have about the treatment and how it will work for you. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What should I know about how Verzenio will affect my body?
- Can I take vitamins with Verzenio?
- Will Verzenio make me too tired to work?
- How long will it take my body to get used to Verzenio?
To learn more about breast cancer and its treatment options, sign-up for Healthline’s breast cancer newsletter.
Ask a pharmacist
If I have diarrhea from Verzenio, can I take Imodium with Verzenio?
Yes, it’s generally OK to take Imodium with Verzenio if you have diarrhea during treatment. There aren’t any known interactions between Verzenio and Imodium. And if you get diarrhea, the manufacturer of Verzenio recommends using an anti-diarrheal, such as Imodium, as soon as the diarrhea starts. They recommend taking Imodium in addition to calling your doctor.
Here’s the 24-hour action plan for diarrhea recommended by Verzenio’s manufacturer:
- Begin taking an anti-diarrheal medication, such as Imodium, and call your doctor right away.
- During the first 24 of having diarrhea, be sure to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of clear fluids, such as water.
- If the diarrhea lasts longer than 24 hours, call your doctor as soon as possible.
But to be safe, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking Imodium or any other over-the-counter medications with Verzenio.
Alex Brewer, PharmD, MBAAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.