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Drugs reference index «Ontak»



Generic Name: denileukin diftitox (Intravenous route)

den-i-LOO-kin DIF-ti-tox

Intravenous routeSolution
  • Serious and fatal infusion reactions, capillary leak syndrome, and loss of visual acuity. The following adverse reactions have been reported:
    • Infusion reactions:
      • Serious and fatal infusion reactions. Administer denileukin diftitox in a facility equipped and staffed for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Immediately stop and permanently discontinue denileukin diftitox for serious infusion reactions.
    • Capillary leak syndrome:
      • Capillary leak syndrome resulting in death. Monitor weight, edema, blood pressure and serum albumin levels prior to and during denileukin diftitox treatment.
    • Visual acuity and color vision:
      • Loss of visual acuity and color vision

Serious and fatal infusion reactions may occur; therefore, patients treated with denileukin diftitox must be managed in a facility equipped and staffed for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Treatment with denileukin diftitox should be immediately stopped and permanently discontinued after serious infusion reactions. Capillary leak syndrome resulting in death may also occur. Patients weight, edema, blood pressure and serum albumin levels should be monitored prior to and during denileukin diftitox treatment. Patients should also be monitored for loss of visual acuity and color vision .

Commonly used brand name(s):

In the U.S.

  • Ontak

Available Dosage Forms:

  • Injectable
  • Solution

Therapeutic Class: Antineoplastic Agent

Pharmacologic Class: Interleukin

Uses For Ontak

Denileukin diftitox is used to treat persistent or recurrent cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This is a rare type of cancer that affects certain white blood cells and causes lesions to develop on the skin.

Denileukin diftitox interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal cells may also be affected by the medicine, other effects may also occur. Some of these may be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Some effects may occur after treatment with denileukin diftitox.

Denileukin diftitox is to be administered only by or under the supervision of your doctor or other health care professional.

Before Using Ontak

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this medicine, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.


Appropriate studies have not been performed on the relationship of age to the effects of denileukin diftitox in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.


Although appropriate studies on the relationship of age to the effects of denileukin diftitox have not been performed in the geriatric population, geriatric-specific problems are not expected to limit the usefulness of denileukin diftitox in the elderly.

Breast Feeding

There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.

Interactions with Medicines

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Tell your healthcare professional if you are taking any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicine.

Interactions with Food/Tobacco/Alcohol

Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.

Other Medical Problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of this medicine. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

  • Heart disease—Use with caution. May increase risk for more serious side effects.

Proper Use of Ontak

Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.

A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine in a hospital or cancer treatment center. This medicine is given through a needle placed in one of your veins. The medicine must be injected slowly, so your IV tube will need to stay in place for 30 to 60 minutes.

This medicine is usually given every day for 5 days. This 5-day treatment is given again every 21 days for several months, or until your body responds to the medicine.

Missed Dose

This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose, call your doctor, home health caregiver, or treatment clinic for instructions.

Precautions While Using Ontak

It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

This medicine may cause a serious side effect called an infusion reaction. This can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you have fever, chills, breathing problems, chest pain, fast or pounding heartbeat, hives, or rash after you receive the injection.

Call your doctor right away if you have dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position; rapid weight gain; or swelling of hands, ankles, feet, or lower legs. These may be symptoms of a rare but serious condition called capillary leak syndrome.

Check with your doctor right away if you have any vision changes (e.g., decrease in vision, loss of color vision) while you are using this medicine. Your doctor may want you to have your eyes checked by an eye doctor.

Ontak Side Effects

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.

Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

More common
  • Back pain
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • blurred vision
  • body aches or pain
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • cough
  • difficulty with breathing
  • difficulty with moving
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position suddenly
  • ear congestion
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • feeling unusually cold
  • fever or chills
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of strength or energy
  • loss of voice
  • muscle aching or cramping
  • muscle pains or stiffness
  • nasal congestion
  • nausea
  • pain in the joints and muscles
  • rapid weight gain
  • rash
  • runny nose
  • shivering
  • shortness of breath
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • sweating
  • swollen joints
  • tightness in the chest
  • tingling of the hands or feet
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • unusual weight gain or loss
  • vomiting
  • warmth and flushing of the skin
  • wheezing
Less common
  • Abdominal pain, severe
  • black, tarry stools
  • blood in the urine or stools
  • cloudy urine
  • cough or hoarseness accompanied by fever or chills
  • headache, severe
  • loss of coordination
  • lower back or side pain accompanied by fever or chills
  • pain in the groin or leg
  • painful or difficult urination accompanied by fever or chills
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • slurring of speech
  • sudden vision changes
  • swelling or pain at the injection site
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • weakness of the arm and leg
  • Dry, puffy skin
  • increased heart rate
  • weight gain

Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common
  • Change in taste
  • diarrhea
  • itching
  • loss of taste
Less common
  • Constipation
  • indigestion
  • numbness or tingling of the fingers, toes, or face
  • runny nose
  • trouble with sleeping

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

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  • Ontak Prescribing Information (FDA)
  • Ontak Concise Consumer Information (Cerner Multum)
  • Ontak MedFacts Consumer Leaflet (Wolters Kluwer)
  • Denileukin Diftitox Professional Patient Advice (Wolters Kluwer)