Venclexta (venetoclax) is a prescription brand-name medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in certain adults. AML is a type of cancer that affects your blood cells.
Venclexta is a type of targeted therapy for AML. It works by targeting and blocking the action of a specific protein within leukemia cells.
Here are the basics about Venclexta:
- Active ingredient: venetoclax
- Drug class: BCL-2 inhibitor
- Drug form: oral tablet
- Available as generic: no
Keep reading for more information about Venclexta and its use in treating AML. You can also refer to this article for a comprehensive look at Venclexta and its other uses.
Clinical studies have shown that Venclexta is an effective treatment for newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in certain adults. (You can read more about Venclexta’s clinical trial results on the manufacturer’s website.)
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with AML, it’s common to have many questions about how well Venclexta works. These may include: “Can Venclexta cure AML?” You may also wonder how long drugs used with Venclexta work for AML.
In many cases, it’s possible that Venclexta can allow your AML to go into complete remission after initial treatment. (Complete remission is when signs and symptoms of AML have disappeared.) But that doesn’t mean you’re cured. A cure is when there are no traces of cancer after receiving treatment, and the cancer won’t come back. AML may not go away completely, and it may relapse (come back after a period of remission).
Venclexta is used with chemotherapy drugs, specifically either:
- azacitidine (Onureg, Vidaza) or
- decitabine (Dacogen) or
How long these drugs are effective for leukemia treatment (such as for AML) can vary. As long as your treatment works effectively and safely for you, your doctor may recommend taking these drugs long term.
Venclexta is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The drug is approved for use in adults ages 75 years or older and in adults who can’t receive standard chemotherapy.
Venclexta comes as oral tablets.
For treating AML, your Venclexta dosage will likely be increased over the first 3 to 4 days of treatment. The dosage that you’ll continue to take will depend on which drug* your doctor prescribes with Venclexta.
Here’s the typical dosage schedule for Venclexta for AML:
- day 1: 100 milligrams (mg)
- day 2: 200 mg
- day 3: 400 mg
- day 4 and on with azacitidine or decitabine: 400 mg
- day 4 and on with cytarabine: 600 mg
Keep taking your daily dose of Venclexta for as long as your doctor recommends.
Note: In addition to treating AML, Venclexta has other uses. Keep in mind that the drug’s dosing may differ for these other uses. To learn more, talk with your doctor.
* Venclexta is used with either azacitidine (Onureg, Vidaza), decitabine (Dacogen), or cytarabine. These are chemotherapy drugs.
How to use
You should swallow Venclexta tablets whole with a drink of water. Be sure to take your daily dose with a meal.
How often to use
You’ll likely take Venclexta once daily. There’s no best time of day to take the drug, but be sure to take Venclexta at the same time each day.
Venclexta is meant for long-term use.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer. It affects myeloid cells, which are found in your bone marrow (tissue inside your bones that makes blood cells).
The cancer is referred to as “acute” because it’s fast-growing. If AML isn’t treated right away, it can progress (worsen) quickly.
With AML, myeloid cells develop abnormally into leukemia cells. These leukemia cells fill your bone marrow. As a result, there’s less space available for your bone marrow to produce healthy blood cells. This increases the risk of serious infection and bleeding problems.
Symptoms of AML
The symptoms of AML occur when your body can’t properly make healthy blood cells. These cells include red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. White blood cells defend your body from germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that can cause infection. Platelets (also called thrombocytes) clump together when there’s an injury to help prevent your body from losing too much blood.
Without enough healthy blood cells, the common symptoms of AML can include:
- feeling tired
- bruising easily or bleeding more than usual
Who Venclexta is prescribed for
Venclexta is used to treat newly diagnosed AML in adults who:
- are ages 75 years and older or
- aren’t able to take or tolerate standard chemotherapy
Venclexta is used with either azacitidine (Onureg, Vidaza), decitabine (Dacogen), or cytarabine. These are chemotherapy drugs.
Venclexta is approved to treat newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in certain adults. It is used with certain chemotherapy drugs to treat this type of cancer. (For details, see “Who Venclexta is prescribed for” right above.)
The way Venclexta works
Venclexta is a type of targeted cancer therapy called a BCL-2 inhibitor. (“BCL-2” refers to B cell lymphoma-2.) Venclexta works by targeting and blocking the action of a specific protein within leukemia cells called BCL-2.
BCL-2 helps regulate how long individual cells live. Cancerous AML cells contain high levels of this protein. BCL-2 keeps leukemia cells living longer than they should. It’s also thought that BCL-2 makes AML cells harder to treat with chemotherapy.
Venclexta works by attaching to BCL-2, preventing it from working. This causes the leukemia cells to die.
The use of Venclexta for acute myeloid leukemia (AML)* may cause side effects that are mild or serious. The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported in people taking Venclexta.
For information about other potential side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see this article or refer to Venclexta’s medication guide.
Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a medication, it tracks side effects of the drug. If you develop a side effect while taking Venclexta and would like to inform the FDA, visit MedWatch.
* Venclexta is approved to treat other conditions as well. It’s important to note that side effects from Venclexta may differ, depending on the condition it’s being used to treat.
Mild side effects
Like other medications, Venclexta can cause mild side effects. These side effects of Venclexta may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But if they last longer, or if they bother you or become severe, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Common mild side effects of Venclexta for AML include:
- nausea or vomiting
- fatigue (lack of energy)
- edema (fluid buildup that causes swelling of your legs, feet, arms, or hands)
- abdomen (belly) pain
- pain in your muscles, joints, or bones
- sore throat
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are possible with Venclexta treatment. Call your doctor right away if you develop serious side effects while taking Venclexta. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Serious but less common side effects of Venclexta may include:
- serious blood disorders, such as neutropenia (low white blood cell count), anemia (low red blood cell count), or thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
- tumor lysis syndrome (a condition in which cancer cells release harmful chemicals into your blood)
- serious infections, such as pneumonia (lung infection) or sepsis (blood infection)
- allergic reaction*
* An allergic reaction is possible after taking Venclexta. However, this side effect wasn’t reported in clinical studies.
Before you start Venclexta treatment, there’s some important information to keep in mind. The drug may not be a safe option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Some of these are mentioned below.
If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors are relevant to you, talk with your doctor before taking Venclexta:
- if you currently have an infection
- if you have a history of kidney or liver problems
- if you have high blood levels of phosphorous, potassium, or uric acid
- if you have low blood levels of calcium
- if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
- if you’re breastfeeding or thinking of breastfeeding
- if you’ve had an allergic reaction to Venclexta or any of its ingredients
How much Venclexta costs is based on several factors. These can include your prescribed treatment regimen, the insurance plan you have, the pharmacy you use, and your location.
Venclexta is a brand-name medication. It’s not currently available in a generic form. Brand-name drugs usually cost more than generics.
Now that you’ve read about Venclexta for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), you may still have some questions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist, who can advise you about whether Venclexta might be right for you.
Here are some other helpful references:
- More details. For details about other aspects of Venclexta, refer to this article.
- Drug comparison. To learn how Venclexta compares with Daurismo, see this section.
- Information about leukemia. For more information about leukemia, see our cancer hub, as well as this list of leukemia articles.
Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.