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Brand names:


Often used for:

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

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What is idarubicin?

Idarubicin (Idamycin®) is a type of chemotherapy. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cells. It is usually used in combination with other medicines.   

Idarubicin can cause serious heart problems. These problems can occur during therapy or months to years later. Tell the care team right away if your child has a cough, an abnormal heartbeat (too fast or too slow), swelling in the arms or legs, shortness of breath, sudden weight gain, tiredness or weakness. Your care team may order tests before and during treatment to see if your child’s heart is working well enough to receive idarubicin.

Your child will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver and kidney function. This medicine can cause heart damage, so your child’s heart function will be closely monitored. 

Idarubicin can cause tissue damage, blisters, or skin irritation if it leaks from the vein. Tell your care team if your child has pain, burning, redness, or swelling around the IV site.


May be given into a vein by IV

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Possible side effects

  • Low blood counts (This may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia or fatigue.)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss
  • Change in color of urine (pee)
  • Heart problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bleeding of the stomach or digestive tract
  • Skin changes (skin rash, hives, or rash of the palms and soles of feet)
  • Headache
  • Liver problems
  • Change in skin color at the site of radiation treatment (radiation recall)
  • Skin irritation at the IV site

Allergic reaction – Call your care team right away if your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction. These may include:

  • Rash, hives, or itching
  • Flu-like symptoms such as chills, aches, headache, or fever
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, or tightness in the throat 
  • Swelling of the face or neck

Not all patients who take idarubicin will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

Find more information on side effects.

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Possible long-term or late effects

Patients who take idarubicin may be at risk for medical problems later in life. These can include heart problems. Your care team can give you more information about your child’s risk.

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Tips for patients and families

Be sure to discuss all questions and instructions with your care provider or pharmacist. 

  • Idarubicin can damage the heart. Patients should have ongoing monitoring of cardiac function and watch for signs of heart disease. Heart problems can occur at any time during or after treatment.
  • This medicine can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection. Wash hands often, keep patient areas clean, and avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Your care team may prescribe medicine to reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • If idarubicin is given after radiation therapy, the skin area that was exposed to radiation therapy may become red again (radiation recall).
  • Idarubicin is a type of chemotherapy called an anthracycline. Let a doctor know if there is a history of an allergic reaction to any anthracycline including daunorubicin, doxorubicin, epirubicin, or idarubicin.
  • Your child may bleed more easily, and wounds may heal more slowly. Brush teeth gently with a soft toothbrush, use an electric razor to shave, and avoid activities that can cause injury.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during and after treatment as recommended by their doctor.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are sexually active, pregnant, or breastfeeding.
  • Caregivers should follow instructions to avoid contact with patient body fluids, which can contain the drug for 48 hours after it is given.