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Tarceva (Erlotinib)

Last updated on December 4, 2023

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Other names of Tarceva


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Erlotinib (er-LOE-tye-nib)

Other Names for this Medication (Brand Name): Tarceva


White round tablet containing 25mg, 100mg, or 150mg of Erlotinib.

What Is Tarceva (Erlotinib)?

Tarceva, or Erlotinib, is a medication used to treat certain types of lung and pancreatic cancers. It belongs to a class of drugs called tyrosine kinase inhibitors, which block specific proteins involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Erlotinib is commonly prescribed for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or pancreatic cancer, mainly when the cancer is advanced or has spread. It’s often used in combination with other cancer treatments or as a maintenance therapy after initial treatment. Like many cancer medications, Erlotinib may have side effects, and healthcare professionals should carefully monitor its use. Patients should communicate any concerns or side effects to their medical team for appropriate management.


Erlotinib is used to treat certain types of non-small cell lung cancer and is being studied for the treatment of other types of cancer.

How To Take

Erlotinib is taken orally once a day at the same time every day, preferably in the morning. It should be taken with a large glass of water on an empty stomach, one hour before or two hours after food or other medications. Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while on Erlotinib.

Do not crush or chew the tablets. If you are unable to swallow the tablet(s), please do the following: Place the tablet(s) into a glass with 50 mL (% cup or 2 ounces) of lukewarm drinking water. Stir occasionally until the tablet is broken into small particles (about 5 minutes).

Drink immediately, rinse the container with the same amount of water, and drink to pick up any drug remaining in the glass. Please note that you may not receive the total dose of medication with this method, as some drugs may still remain in the glass.


Erlotinib can interact with other medications such as erythromycin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, phenytoin, carbamazepine, rifampin, or St. John’s Wort. Ensure your doctor and pharmacist have a complete list of the medications (even over-the-counter ones) you are taking.

Let your medical oncologist know if you take the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin®).

Erlotinib should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is important to discuss birth control with your doctor. (Note: birth control pills alone are not recommended as the only birth control method).

Store at room temperature away from heat, light, and moisture. Keep out of reach of children.

Please call your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse for more information on this medication.

Side Effects





Diarrhea Limit hot, spicy and fried foods; limit foods and drinks with caffeine. Drink plenty of fluids. May take loperamide (Imodium) 2 tablets immediately followed by 1 tablet after each loose stool until diarrhea free up to a maximum of 8 tablets a day or recommended by your physician. Phone your doctor if diarrhea lasts longer than 24 to 48 hours or if you feel weak.
Rash, dry skin, itchy skin, acne Usually appears soon after taking Erlotinib, most often on the body or head. Use a mild soap and moisturizer. Avoid exposure to the sun. Do not stop taking Erlotinib unless your doctor tells you.
Let your doctor or nurse know if this happens.
Nausea & vomiting Eat at regular intervals and maintain fluids. Get fresh air and rest. Have several small meals a day. Eat slowly. Light exercise may help. Drink plenty of fluids. Let your doctor or nurse know if the nausea lasts more than 48 hours.


Dry and/or sore mouth Drink plenty of clear fluids. Use sugarless candy (lemon) or gum. Melt ice chips in your mouth.
Headache Take 2 tablets of acetaminophen 325mg every 4-6 hours as needed. Take no more than 12 tablets per day.
Fatigue Rest often. Be careful driving or handling heavy machinery until you see how the medicine affects you.
Eye problems (blurred vision, redness, pain or dry eyes) Avoid wearing contact lenses while taking this drug Let your doctor or nurse know as soon as possible.
Use preservative free artificial tears or ointment for dry eyes. Contact your doctor if this becomes bothersome.
It is suggested to have a full exam by an eye doctor before starting treatment.
Tell you doctor or nurse as soon as possible
Liver problems (yellow eyes or skin)
Loss of appetite Try to eat several small meals a day at regular intervals and maintain fluids. Get fresh air and rest. Your doctor may monitor blood tests for your liver function
Difficulty breathing, worsening of cough or fever Seek medical attention immediately.
Blood in urine, stool (black, tarry stool) or other bleeding Report any unusual signs of bleeding or bruising to your doctor or nurse immediately.
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