Brand Name(s):

  • Oncaspar®

Other Name(s):

  • PEG-l-asparaginase

WHY is this medicine prescribed?

Your doctor has ordered the drug pegaspargase to help treat your illness. The drug is given by injection into a large muscle or vein.

This medication is used to treat:

  • acute lymphocytic leukemia

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Pegaspargase is in a class of drugs known as enzymes; it slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in your body. The length of treatment depends on the types of drugs you are taking, how well your body responds to them, and the type of cancer you have.

What SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS should I follow?

Before taking pegaspargase,

  • tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to pegaspargase or any other drugs.
  • tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications you are taking, especially anticoagulants ('blood thinners') such as warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, aspirin-substitute products, dipyridamole (Persantine), heparin, and vitamins.
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had pancreatitis, bleeding problems, or diabetes.
  • you should know that pegaspargase may interfere with the normal menstrual cycle (period) in women and may stop sperm production in men. However, you should not assume that you cannot get pregnant or that you cannot get someone else pregnant. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should tell their doctors before they begin taking this drug. You should not plan to have children while receiving chemotherapy or for a while after treatments. (Talk to your doctor for further details.) Use a reliable method of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Pegaspargase may harm the fetus.
  • do not have any vaccinations (e.g., measles or flu shots) without talking to your doctor.

What SIDE EFFECTS can this medicine cause?

Side effects from pegaspargase are common and include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • numbness or tingling in the fingertips

Tell your doctor if the following symptom is severe or lasts for several hours:

  • fatigue

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling of faintness
  • pain or redness at the injection site
  • persistent diarrhea or any change in normal bowel habits for more than 2 days
  • night sweats
  • fever
  • chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • breathing discomfort
  • rash
  • itching or redness of the skin
  • muscle pain
  • stiffness in your joints
  • cramps
  • difficult or frequent urination
  • constant thirst
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • swelling of the feet or ankles
  • seizures

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at Web Site] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].

What should I do in case of OVERDOSE?

In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

What OTHER INFORMATION should I know?

  • The most common side effect of pegaspargase is a decrease of blood cells. Your doctor may order tests before, during, and after your treatment to see if your blood cells are affected by the drug.

AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.

Last Reviewed: September 1, 2010.