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Velcade (Bortezomib) - Warnings and Precautions



VELCADE should be administered under the supervision of a physician experienced in the use of antineoplastic therapy.

Pregnancy Category D

Women of childbearing potential should avoid becoming pregnant while being treated with VELCADE.

Bortezomib was not teratogenic in nonclinical developmental toxicity studies in rats and rabbits at the highest dose tested (0.075 mg/kg; 0.5 mg/m2 in the rat and 0.05 mg/kg; 0.6 mg/m2 in the rabbit) when administered during organogenesis. These dosages are approximately half the clinical dose of 1.3 mg/m2 based on body surface area.

Pregnant rabbits given bortezomib during organogenesis at a dose of 0.05mg/kg (0.6 mg/m2) experienced significant post-implantation loss and decreased number of live fetuses. Live fetuses from these litters also showed significant decreases in fetal weight. The dose is approximately 0.5 times the clinical dose of 1.3 mg/m2 based on body surface area.

No placental transfer studies have been conducted with bortezomib. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. If VELCADE is used during pregnancy, or if the patient becomes pregnant while receiving this drug, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to the fetus.


Peripheral Neuropathy: VELCADE treatment causes a peripheral neuropathy that is predominantly sensory. However, cases of severe sensory and motor peripheral neuropathy have been reported. Patients with pre-existing symptoms (numbness, pain or a burning feeling in the feet or hands) and/or signs of peripheral neuropathy may experience worsening peripheral neuropathy (including ≥Grade 3) during treatment with VELCADE. Patients should be monitored for symptoms of neuropathy, such as a burning sensation, hyperesthesia, hypoesthesia, paresthesia, discomfort, neuropathic pain or weakness. Patients experiencing new or worsening peripheral neuropathy may require change in the dose and schedule of VELCADE (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Following dose adjustments, improvement in or resolution of peripheral neuropathy was reported in 51% of patients with ≥Grade 2 peripheral neuropathy in the phase 3 multiple myeloma study. Improvement in or resolution of peripheral neuropathy was reported in 73% of patients who discontinued due to Grade 2 neuropathy or who had ≥Grade 3 peripheral neuropathy in the phase 2 multiple myeloma studies (also see ADVERSE REACTIONS). The long-term outcome of peripheral neuropathy has not been studied in mantle cell lymphoma.

Hypotension: The incidence of hypotension (postural, orthostatic, and hypotension NOS) was 13%. These events are observed throughout therapy. Caution should be used when treating patients with a history of syncope, patients receiving medications known to be associated with hypotension, and patients who are dehydrated. Management of orthostatic/postural hypotension may include adjustment of antihypertensive medications, hydration, and administration of mineralocorticoids and/or sympathomimetics (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).

Cardiac Disorders: Acute development or exacerbation of congestive heart failure, and/or new onset of decreased left ventricular ejection fraction has been reported, including reports in patients with few or no risk factors for decreased left ventricular ejection fraction. Patients with risk factors for, or existing heart disease should be closely monitored. In the phase 3 multiple myeloma study, the incidence of any treatment-emergent cardiac disorder was 15% and 13% in the VELCADE and dexamethasone groups, respectively. The incidence of heart failure events (acute pulmonary edema, cardiac failure, congestive cardiac failure, cardiogenic shock, pulmonary edema) was similar in the VELCADE and dexamethasone groups, 5% and 4%, respectively. There have been isolated cases of QT-interval prolongation in clinical studies; causality has not been established.

Pulmonary Disorders: There have been rare reports of acute diffuse infiltrative pulmonary disease of unknown etiology such as pneumonitis, interstitial pneumonia, lung infiltration and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) in patients receiving VELCADE. Some of these events have been fatal. A higher proportion of these events have been reported in Japan.

In a clinical trial, the first two patients given high-dose cytarabine (2 g/m2 per day) by continuous infusion with daunorubicin and VELCADE for relapsed acute myelogenous leukemia died of ARDS early in the course of therapy.

There have been rare reports of pulmonary hypertension associated with VELCADE administration in the absence of left heart failure or significant pulmonary disease.

In the event of new or worsening cardiopulmonary symptoms, a prompt comprehensive diagnostic evaluation should be conducted.

Reversible Posterior Leukoencephalopathy Syndrome (RPLS): There have been rare reports of RPLS in patients receiving VELCADE. RPLS is a rare, reversible, neurological disorder which can present with seizure, hypertension, headache, lethargy, confusion, blindness, and other visual and neurological disturbances. Brain imaging, preferably MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), is used to confirm the diagnosis. In patients developing RPLS, discontinue VELCADE. The safety of reinitiating VELCADE therapy in patients previously experiencing RPLS is not known.

Laboratory Tests: Complete blood counts (CBC) should be frequently monitored during treatment with VELCADE.

Gastrointestinal Adverse Events: VELCADE treatment can cause nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting (see ADVERSE REACTIONS) sometimes requiring use of antiemetic and antidiarrheal medications. Fluid and electrolyte replacement should be administered to prevent dehydration.

Thrombocytopenia/Neutropenia: VELCADE is associated with thrombocytopenia and neutropenia (see ADVERSE REACTIONS). Platelets and neutrophils were lowest at Day 11 of each cycle of VELCADE treatment and typically recovered to baseline by the next cycle. The cyclical pattern of platelet and neutrophil decreases and recovery remained consistent over the 8 cycles of twice weekly dosing, and there was no evidence of cumulative thrombocytopenia or neutropenia. The mean platelet count nadir measured was approximately 40% of baseline. The severity of thrombocytopenia related to pretreatment platelet count is shown in Table 6. In the phase 3 multiple myeloma study, the incidence of significant bleeding events (≥Grade 3) was similar on both the VELCADE (4%) and dexamethasone (5%) arms. Platelet counts should be monitored prior to each dose of VELCADE. VELCADE therapy should be held when the platelet count is <25,000/µL and reinitiated at a reduced dose (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and ADVERSE REACTIONS). There have been reports of gastrointestinal and intracerebral hemorrhage in association with VELCADE. Transfusions may be considered. The incidence of febrile neutropenia was <1%.

Table 6: Severity of Thrombocytopenia Related to Pretreatment Platelet Count in the Phase 3 Myeloma Study
Platelet Count*
Number of Patients
Number (%) of Patients
with Platelet Count
Number (%) of Patients with
Platelet Count
* A baseline platelet count of 50,000/µL was required for study eligibility.
** Data were missing at baseline for 1 patient
≥75,000/µL3098 (3%)36 (12%)
≥ 50,000/µL-<75,000/µL142 (14%)11 (79%)
≥10,000/µL-<50,000/µL71 (14%)5 (71%)

Tumor Lysis Syndrome: Because VELCADE is a cytotoxic agent and can rapidly kill malignant cells, the complications of tumor lysis syndrome may occur. Patients at risk of tumor lysis syndrome are those with high tumor burden prior to treatment. These patients should be monitored closely and appropriate precautions taken.

Hepatic Events

Rare cases of acute liver failure have been reported in patients receiving multiple concomitant medications and with serious underlying medical conditions. Other reported hepatic events include increases in liver enzymes, hyperbilirubinemia, and hepatitis. Such changes may be reversible upon discontinuation of VELCADE. There is limited re-challenge information in these patients.

Patients with Hepatic Impairment: Bortezomib is metabolized by liver enzymes and bortezomib’s clearance may decrease in patients with hepatic impairment. These patients should be closely monitored for toxicities when treated with VELCADE (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY/Pharmacokinetics-Special Populations).

Patients with Renal Impairment: Patients with renal impairment should be closely monitored for toxicities when treated with VELCADE (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY/Pharmacokinetics-Special Populations).

Animal Toxicity Findings

Cardiovascular Toxicity

Studies in monkeys showed that administration of dosages approximately twice the recommended clinical dose resulted in heart rate elevations, followed by profound progressive hypotension, bradycardia, and death 12 to 14 hours post dose. Doses ≥1.2 mg/m2 induced dose-proportional changes in cardiac parameters. Bortezomib has been shown to distribute to most tissues in the body, including the myocardium. In a repeated dosing toxicity study in the monkey, myocardial hemorrhage, inflammation, and necrosis were also observed.

Chronic Administration

In animal studies at a dose and schedule similar to that recommended for patients (twice weekly dosing for 2 weeks followed by 1-week rest), toxicities observed included severe anemia and thrombocytopenia, and gastrointestinal, neurological and lymphoid system toxicities. Neurotoxic effects of bortezomib in animal studies included axonal swelling and degeneration in peripheral nerves, dorsal spinal roots, and tracts of the spinal cord. Additionally, multifocal hemorrhage and necrosis in the brain, eye, and heart were observed.

Information for Patients

Physicians are advised to discuss the PATIENT INFORMATION section with patients prior to treatment with VELCADE (see PATIENT INFORMATION).

Ability to Drive or Operate Machinery or Impairment of Mental Ability: VELCADE may cause fatigue, dizziness, syncope, orthostatic/postural hypotension. Patients should be advised not to drive or operate machinery if they experience these symptoms.

Dehydration/Hypotension: Since patients receiving VELCADE therapy may experience vomiting and/or diarrhea, patients should be advised regarding appropriate measures to avoid dehydration. Patients should be instructed to seek medical advice if they experience symptoms of dizziness, light headedness or fainting spells.

Drug Interactions

No formal drug interaction studies have been conducted with VELCADE.

In vitro studies with human liver microsomes indicate that bortezomib is primarily a substrate for cytochrome P450 3A4, 2C19, and 1A2. Patients who are concomitantly receiving VELCADE and drugs that are inhibitors or inducers of cytochrome P450 3A4 should be closely monitored for either toxicities or reduced efficacy (see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY/ Pharmacokinetics-Drug Interactions).

During clinical trials, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia were reported in diabetic patients receiving oral hypoglycemics. Patients on oral antidiabetic agents receiving VELCADE treatment may require close monitoring of their blood glucose levels and adjustment of the dose of their antidiabetic medication.

Drug Laboratory Test Interactions

None known.

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

Carcinogenicity studies have not been conducted with bortezomib.

Bortezomib showed clastogenic activity (structural chromosomal aberrations) in the in vitro chromosomal aberration assay using Chinese hamster ovary cells. Bortezomib was not genotoxic when tested in the in vitro mutagenicity assay (Ames test) and in vivo micronucleus assay in mice.

Fertility studies with bortezomib were not performed but evaluation of reproductive tissues has been performed in the general toxicity studies. In the 6-month rat toxicity study, degenerative effects in the ovary were observed at doses ≥0.3 mg/m2 (one-fourth of the recommended clinical dose), and degenerative changes in the testes occurred at 1.2 mg/m2. VELCADE could have a potential effect on either male or female fertility.

Pregnancy Category D (see WARNINGS)


Patients should be advised to use effective contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy.

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether bortezomib is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from VELCADE, women should be advised against breast feeding while being treated with VELCADE.

Pediatric Use

The safety and effectiveness of VELCADE in children has not been established.

Geriatric Use

Of the 669 patients enrolled in the phase 3 multiple myeloma study, 245 (37%) were 65 years of age or older: 125 (38%) on the VELCADE arm and 120 (36%) on dexamethasone arm. Median time to progression and median duration of response for patients ≥65 were longer on VELCADE compared to dexamethasone [5.5 mo versus 4.3 mo, and 8.0 mo versus 4.9 mo, respectively]. On the VELCADE arm, 40% (n=46) of evaluable patients aged ≥65 experienced response (CR+PR) versus 18% (n=21) on the dexamethasone arm. The incidence of Grade 3 and 4 events was 64%, 78% and 75% for VELCADE patients ≤50, 51-64 and ≥65 years old, respectively (see CLINICAL STUDIES).

In the phase 2 clinical study of 202 patients with relapsed multiple myeloma, 35% of patients were 65 years of age or older, the incidence of Grade ≥3 events was 74%, 80%, and 85% for VELCADE patients ≤50, 51 to 65, and >65 years old, respectively (see CLINICAL STUDIES).

No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between patients ≥ age 65 and younger patients receiving VELCADE; but greater sensitivity of some older individuals cannot be ruled out.

Page last updated: 2006-12-08

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