Posted on December 4th, 2008 by

Class: Supportive care

Generic Name: Ondansetron (on-DAN-se-tron)
Trade Name: Zofran®

How is this drug used? Ondansetron is FDA approved for the prevention of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy that has a strong association to nausea and vomiting, including high-dose cisplatin. It is important for patients to remember that physicians have the ability to prescribe medication for conditions other than those for which the drug has been approved by the FDA. Patients who have received a prescription of this drug for a condition other than which it is approved may wish to discuss this issue with their physician.
What is the mechanism of action? Ondansetron belongs to a class of drugs called antiemetics. Nausea and vomiting may be caused by the release of serotonin with the use of some chemotherapy agents. The serotonin binds to cell receptors called 5-HT3 which stimulate the vomiting reflex. Ondansetron helps to prevent nausea and vomiting by blocking 5-HT3 receptors so that the serotonin is not able to bind to the receptor and initiate the vomiting reflex.

How is ondansetron given (administered)? Ondansetron may be administered into a vein (intravenous), into a muscle (intramuscular), or by mouth.

How are patients monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while they are being treated with ondansetron in association with chemotherapy treatment. Patients may undergo physical examinations or other measures to assess side effects and response to therapy.  Monitoring for ondansetron includes assessments of its ability to prevent nausea and/or vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

What are the most common side effects of treatment with ondansetron?

• Headache
• Constipation
• Diarrhea
• Fatigue, weakness

This is not a complete list of side effects. Some patients may experience other side effects that are not listed here. Patients may wish to discuss with their physician the other less common side effects of this drug, some of which may be serious.

Some side effects may require medical attention. Other side effects do not require medical attention and may go away during treatment. Patients should check with their physician about any side effects that continue or are bothersome.
What can patients do to help alleviate or prevent discomfort and side effects?

• Patients should inform their doctors of any side effects.
• Wear sunscreen and protective clothing; try to minimize sun exposure.
• Drink plenty of fluids.  (Patients should ask their physician about the amount of liquid to consume during a day).
• Maintain adequate rest and nutrition.

Are there any special precautions patients should be aware of before starting treatment?

• Patients should inform their physician if they are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a family in the near future. This drug may cause birth defects. It is important to use some kind of birth control while undergoing treatment. Also, patients may want to talk to their physician if they are considering having children in the future, since some drugs may cause fertility problems.
• It is important that patients inform their physician of any pre-existing conditions (chicken pox, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease, etc.) as they may worsen with this drug.
• Patients should inform their physician of any other medication they are taking (whether prescription or over-the-counter, including vitamins, herbs, etc.) as they may interfere with treatment.
• Patients should check with their physician before starting any new drug or nutritional supplement.
• Patients should inform their physician of any known drug or food allergies or any reactions to medications they have experienced in the past.

When should patients notify their physician?

• Yellowing of skin or eyes
• Sudden accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
• Severe abdominal pain
• Persistent or severe headache
• Noticeable changes in heart rate or rhythm
• Severe weakness
• Difficulty speaking
• Muscle stiffness or spasms
• Restlessness on uncontrolled movement of arms and legs
• Lightheadedness or dizziness
• Signs of allergic reaction (rash, itching, difficulty breathing, tightness of throat or chest)

What is a package insert?
A package insert is required by the FDA and contains a summary of the essential scientific information needed for the safe and effective use of the drug for healthcare providers and consumers.  A package insert typically includes information regarding specific indications, administration schedules, dosing, side effects, contraindications, results from some clinical trials, chemical structure, pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the specific drug. By carefully reviewing the package insert, you will get the most complete and current information about how to safely use this drug. If you do not have the package insert for the drug you are using, your pharmacist or physician may be able to provide you with a copy.

Copyright © 2016 CancerConnect Last updated 07/10.

Important Limitations of Use

The information provided above on the drug you have selected is provided for your information only and is not a substitute for consultation with an appropriate medical doctor. We are providing this information solely as a courtesy and, as such, it is in no way a recommendation as to the safety, efficacy or appropriateness of any particular drug, regimen, dosing schedule for any particular cancer, condition or patient nor is it in any way to be considered medical advice. Patients should discuss the appropriateness of a particular drug or chemotherapy regimen with their physician.

As with any printed reference, the use of particular drugs, regimens and drug dosages may become out-of-date over time, since new information may have been published and become generally accepted after the latest update to this printed information. Please keep in mind that health care professionals are fully responsible for practicing within current standards, avoiding use of outdated regimens, employing good clinical judgment in selecting drugs and/or regimens, in calculating doses for individual patients, and verifying all dosage calculations.



The prescribing physician is solely responsible for making all decisions relating to appropriate patient care including, but not limited to, drugs, regimens, dose, schedule, and any supportive care.

Tags: Drug Dictionary, Supportive, Z

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