Altretamine (Oral)

Altretamine is used to ease the symptoms caused by ovarian cancer.


This medication is an orally-administered drug under the group antineoplastics. This medication is primarily used as a treatment for cancer of the ovaries. Depending on the determination of a medical professional, this drug may also be used for other forms of cancer.

Altretamine acts as an interference against the growth of cancer cells, causing the cells to eventually be destroyed. Due to the nature of this medication, the growth of normal body cells can also be affected by this drug and therefore can potentially have serious effects on the body.

A standard dosage of Altretamine is four capsules taken per day, in a 28-day cycle.

Conditions Treated

Type of Medicine

  • Antineoplastic chemotherapy drug
  • Oral capsules

Side Effects

Alongside the effects Altretamine is designed to produce, this medication may also cause some unwanted side effects. Although not all, if any, of these side effects will occur in every patient, if they do occur it is important for the patient to seek proper medical attention as soon as possible, depending on the severity of the side effects experienced.

Because of the functionality of Altretamine, not all side effects will be present or noticeable at the beginning of the course of treatment. The side effects may occur months or years after the usage of this medication, with certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, potentially being caused by this treatment. All possible side effects, both short and long-term, should be discussed with a medical professional prior to beginning a course of treatment.

If any of the following side effects occur, consult with a medical professional as soon as possible:

  • Anxiety
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Blood in urine or stools
  • Clumsiness
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Cough or hoarseness, accompanied by fever or chills
  • Dizziness
  • Fever or chills
  • Lower back or side pain, accompanied by fever or chills
  • Mental depression
  • Numbness in arms or legs
  • Painful or difficult urination, accompanied by fever or chills
  • Pinpoint red spots on skin
  • Rare
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Weakness

Due to the nature of Altretamine, some side effects occur often as a result of the treatment that usually do not require medical attention at their onset. These side effects may go away as your body adapts to the drug or continue consistently during your treatment cycle. If any of these side effects appear to increase in severity over time, continue for longer than expected or are particularly uncomfortable, inform a medical professional at your on convenience.

The following side effects may occur when taking Altretamine, but usually do not require medical attention:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps

For any serious side effects experienced, or any signs of an allergic reaction to the medication such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, aim to receive emergency medical attention as soon as possible.


A typical dosage of Altretamine for an adult is 260 mg/m2/day. This is administered orally in four divided doses after meals and at bedtime, either for 14 or 21 consecutive days in a 28-day cycle. However, the final dosage during a treatment cycle and per day basis will be determined individually by the doctor of the patient for the best possible effect.

HEXALEN (the US brand name for Altretamine) is available in 50 mg clear, hard gelatin capsules.


Many drugs can interact with other drugs within the human body, both those currently being taken and those taken recently, which can lead to changing effects of medication and even additional side effects that can cause the medication to become ineffective or even cause harm to the patient.

Patients and physicians should keep an up-to-date list of all medications and diagnostic drugs currently in use in order to prevent issues with negative drug interaction, and in order to build a fully realized picture of the patient's medical history and any current or past reactions to drugs that may influence the medical professional's decision to prescribe Triamterene as a viable medication.

It's critical that the patient's doctor is aware of every drug within their system, from long-term medication to over the counter drugs, and makes their doctor aware of their current and recent medication usage to ensure treatment that is effective and is less likely to cause harm.

Using this medication with any of the following drugs is generally not recommended, but may be unavoidable in some cases. If both medications are prescribed together, a medical professional may change the patient's dosage or how often you one or both of the medicines are used:

  • Brofaromine
  • Clorgyline
  • Furazolidone
  • Iproniazid
  • Isocarboxazid
  • Lazabemide
  • Linezolid
  • Moclobemide
  • Nialamide
  • Pargyline
  • Phenelzine
  • Procarbazine
  • Pyridoxine
  • Rasagiline
  • Selegiline
  • Toloxatone
  • Tranylcypromine
  • Other Interactions

Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Other medical issues of conditions, both present or past, may affect how Altretamine functions, resulting in potential side effects, worsened illness or other effects. A medical professional should be consulted if the patient has suffered from any of the following:

Certain drugs should generally not be used at or around the time of eating food, both in general or specific food types, as interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medications may also cause interactions to occur.

Using this medication is not known to conflict with any particular foods or other items. However, consultation with a doctor is recommended, and based on this information a medical professional may need to alter the dose or how often you take this medicine, or give you special instructions about the use of this medication with this interaction.

Treatment with Altretamine may temporarily be discontinued for a minimum of 14 days if one or more of any of the follow side effects occur:

  • Gastrointestinal intolerance unresponsive to symptomatic measures
  • Granulocyte count below 1000/mm
  • Platelet count below 75,000/mm
  • Progressive neurotoxicity
  • White blood count below 2000/mm


As with all chemotherapy related medications, it is important that the patient keeps regular and consistent contact with their doctor in order to ensure that their medication is working correctly and to keep up to date on any new or progressing side effects.

While under treatment with Altretamine, and following treatment, ensure that the patient does not undergo any immunizations or vaccinations without explicit permission from a medical professional. Any doctor who has suggested a course of immunizations should be made aware of the usage of Altretamine prior to continuing with these medications.

Altretamine has been known to lower the body's resistances to a variety of vaccines, and may cause the patient to become infected with the treatment that the immunization is designed to prevent. In addition to immunizations not being advised to the patient, those who come into contact with the person taking Altretamine on a regular basis or living within the same household should be discouraged from taking the oral polio vaccine in order to prevent passing the polio virus onto the immunocompromised patient.

If the above is not possible, the patient should take precautions such as wearing a protective face mask over their mouth and nose to prevent contraction of the virus.

In addition to making the patient more susceptible to certain viruses, this medication can also temporarily cause a decrease in the white blood cells of the patient, leading to an increased chance of contracting an infection. Altretamine can also lower the number of platelets in the blood, which are necessary for the blood to clot correctly. It a low platelet count occurs, certain precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of bleeding or infection:

  • If at all possible, the patient should avoid people with infections. Check with your medical professional immediately if the patient may have contracted an infection, or get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination, all of which can be symptoms of internal infection.
  • A medical professional should be consulted immediately if the patient notices any unusual bleeding or bruising; black, tarry stools; blood in urine or stools; or pinpoint red spots on your skin that are unusual. These can indicate internal bleeding.
  • Caution is advised when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may be able to recommend other ways for patients clean your teeth and gums, depending on level of sensitivity. Prior to having any dental work, the patient should take care to inform both their doctor and dentist of upcoming treatment and seek advice.
  • Touching the inside of the nose and the eyes is not advised unless immediately after the patient has washed their hands, and has not touched anything else since.
  • Patients with low platelet count are advised to be careful not to cut themselves when using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
  • Contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur should be avoided unless otherwise advised by a medical professional.

Animal studies using Altretamine have revealed evidence of embryotoxicity and teratogenicity at doses 2 and 10 times the human dose. Due to this, Altretamine carries US FDA pregnancy category D: "There is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks."

Based on this evidence, it is known that Altretamine may cause fetal damage when administered to a pregnant woman. As such, if you are planning to become pregnant, have fallen pregnant or are currently pregnant it is essential to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible. It is also not recommended to breastfeed when under treatment with Altretamine.


Altretamine should be stored at room temperature, at an average of 25°C (77°F).

Unneeded or extra medications should be disposed of in the correct way to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them indivertibly, as this may cause harm. However, you should not flush this or any other drugs down the toilet. Rather, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medication take-back program. Talk to a pharmacist or a local garbage/recycling department to learn more about take-back programs in the local community.

All medication, including Altretamine, should be out of sight and reach of children as a best practice, as many containers, such as weekly pill minders and containers for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers, are not designed to be child-resistant. To protect young children from poisoning or other medication-related illness, always ensure safety caps are locked and immediately place the medication in a safe location after use.


Altretamine is a medication that is used to treat ovarian cancer, and is a antineoplastics drug available in capsule form. It is designed to be taken at home on prescription from a suitable medical professional in order to act as an interference in the growth of cancer cells.

Due to the nature of antineoplastics, Altretamine can cause many side effects during a treatment cycle, many of which are common, such as nausea and vomiting. It may also cause other complications such as a low platelet count and white blood cell count, which can cause increased bleeding and greater chance of infection.

Patients taking Altretamine are cautioned to be extra careful to avoid physical injury and exposure to certain vaccines, such as the polio virus, as they can become infected.

Last Reviewed:
December 10, 2017
Last Updated:
April 27, 2018
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