Keytruda vs Opdivo – Comparison of Uses & Side Effects

This article explains what are the differences between Keytruda and Opdivo.

Keytruda

It is the brand name of a medication called pembrolizumab that belongs to a group of drugs called PD-1 Blockers.

Mechanism of Action

It works by blocking the PD-1 receptor, preventing binding and activation of PD-L1 and PD-L2. This causes the activation of T-cell mediated immune responses against tumor cells.

Uses

This prescription medication is used to treat:

  • a type of cancer which laboratory testing proves to be a mismatch repair deficiency solid tumor;
  • a certain type of urinary tract and bladder cancer which has spread to other parts of the body;
  • classical Hodgkin lymphoma in children and adults;
  • neck and head cancer which has spread to other parts of the body;
  • a certain type of non-small cell lung cancer;
  • advanced skin cancer which has spread to other parts of the body.

Dosage

The medication is injected over half an hour, and the usual dose is 2 mg per kilogram of body weight. It is usually given once every 3 weeks.

Note – this medication is not approved for children under age 18.

Side Effects and Precautions

Common side effects may include:

  • itching or rash;
  • constipation;
  • pain in the bones, muscles, or joints;
  • diarrhea;
  • feeling short of breath;
  • loss of appetite;
  • feeling tired;
  • stomach pain;
  • a cough;
  • vomiting;
  • abnormal liver function tests;
  • fever;
  • low sodium levels;
  • nausea.

Rare side effects may include:

  • easy bruising or bleeding;
  • feeling unsteady;
  • pale skin;
  • joint pain;
  • feeling short of breath;
  • loss of coordination;
  • chest pain;
  • severe weakness;
  • severe or ongoing muscle aches;
  • slurred speech;
  • worsening cough;
  • confusion;
  • black/bloody or tarry stools;
  • severe muscle weakness;
  • weight gain or weight loss;
  • stools that contain mucus;
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • severe stomach pain;
  • right-sided stomach pain;
  • bloody or cloudy urine;
  • vision problems;
  • pain or burning when you urinate;
  • swelling of the ankles or feet;
  • hair loss;
  • rapid heartbeats;
  • pelvic pain;
  • feeling cold;
  • hoarse or deepened voice;
  • mood or behavior changes;
  • urinating more or less than usual;
  • increased hunger or thirst;
  • feeling light-headed or very tired.

Contraindications

To make sure that this medication is safe for you, tell your healthcare provider if you have:

  • a thyroid disorder;
  • a lung disease or a breathing disorder;
  • if you have ever had an organ transplant;
  • kidney disease;
  • ulcerative colitis;
  • liver disease;
  • Crohn’s disease;
  • lupus.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

It is not known exactly if this medication passes into breast milk or if it could negatively affect a breastfeeding infant. Tell your doctor that you are breastfeeding before using this medication.

More importantly, do not take this medicine if you are pregnant since it could harm an unborn baby. Tell your healthcare professional right away if you have become pregnant while taking this medication.

Drug Interactions

It may negatively interact with other medications, especially:

  • Thalomid (thalidomide);
  • Revlimid (lenalidomide);
  • Pomalyst (pomalidomide).

Opdivo  

It is the brand name of a medication called nivolumab that belongs to a group of drugs called PD-1 inhibitors. It works by attaching to certain types of cancer cells.

Uses

This prescription medication is used to treat certain types of cancer, including:

  • urothelial carcinoma;
  • classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma;
  • colorectal cancer;
  • squamous cell cancer of the neck and head;
  • kidney cancer;
  • liver cancer;
  • bladder cancer;
  • non-small cell lung cancer;
  • melanoma (skin cancer).

Dosage

The amount of this medication which you will receive depends on many factors, such as:

  • the type of cancer or condition being treated;
  • other health problems you are experiencing;
  • your general health.

This medication is usually administered intravenously into the vein over 60 minutes every 14 days.

Side Effects and Precautions

Common side effects may include:

  • body aches;
  • constipation;
  • fever;
  • vomiting;
  • skin rash, itching;
  • loss of appetite;
  • back pain;
  • stomach pain;
  • shortness of breath;
  • headaches;
  • a sore throat;
  • nausea;
  • sneezing;
  • a runny or stuffy nose;
  • feeling weak.

Rare side effects may include:

  • changes in your vision;
  • bloody or tarry stools;
  • ongoing pain in the muscles or joints;
  • severe muscle weakness;
  • sores in the mouth, rectum, nose, or genitals;
  • sudden chest pain or discomfort;
  • severe stomach pain;
  • worsening cough;
  • severe diarrhea;
  • worsening skin itching, rash, or blistering;
  • loss of appetite;
  • memory problems;
  • swelling in your feet or ankles;
  • upper stomach pain;
  • hallucinations;
  • clay-colored stools;
  • feeling cold;
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • hoarse or deepened voice;
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • mood or behavior changes;
  • blood in your urine;
  • easy bruising or bleeding.

Alcohol

It is recommended to avoid alcohol while taking this PD-1 inhibitor.

Contraindications

To make sure that this medication is safe for you, tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had:

  • a thyroid disorder;
  • lung disease or breathing problems;
  • an organ transplant;
  • kidney disease;
  • ulcerative colitis;
  • liver disease;
  • Crohn’s disease;
  • lupus.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

It is not known whether this medication passes into breast milk or if it could negatively affect the infant. But, it is recommended to not breast-feed while using this medication.

More importantly, do not use this medicine if you are pregnant since it could harm the fetus. Plus, do no get pregnant for at least 5 months after your last dose of this medication.

Bottom Line – Keytruda vs Opdivo  

Keytruda (active ingredient – pembrolizumab) is a cancer medication that works by preventing a specific molecular pathway which inhibits the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Opdivo (active ingredient – nivolumab) is a cancer medicine which is used to treat certain types of cancer, such as – non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, classical Hodgkin Lymphoma, and squamous cell cancer of the head and neck. It is available in an injectable form to be given directly into a vein by a doctor.

References

https://www.keytruda.com/melanoma/keytruda-clinical-trials/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2017/10/06/merck-h
https://academic.oup.com/annonc/article/28/6/1388/3101163
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4665064/

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