Chemotherapy patients may have an easier time of it starting this week, as the first drug to prevent delayed nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy becomes available.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration on March 26, Emend (aprepitant) blocks a chemical messenger in the brain that triggers the distressing side effects. Emend is used with drugs that help prevent acute nausea and vomiting, which occur within 24 hours of some chemotherapy.
The delayed side effects have been underestimated, says Dr. Steven Grunberg, professor of medicine at the University of Vermont in Burlington. One survey showed that doctors and nurses thought they occurred about 20% to 30% of the time, but patient reports indicated it was more like 50%, he says.
"If you have to go through chemotherapy, there's no reason you have to be miserable while you're doing it. Now we can prevent that," says Grunberg, who was involved in Emend clinical trials.