Health Guide

Nivolumab (Intravenous route)



Brand Names:

  • Opdivo

Dosage Forms:

  • Solution



Antineoplastic Agent


Monoclonal Antibody

Uses of This Medicine:

Nivolumab injection is used alone or together with other medicines (eg, ipilimumab) to treat melanoma (skin cancer) that has spread throughout the body (metastatic) or that cannot be removed by surgery. It is also used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread throughout the body and after other cancer medicines have been tried. Nivolumab injection is also used to treat kidney cancer in patients who have received other medicines. It is also used to treat classical Hodgkin lymphoma (white blood cell cancer) that has come back or spread after autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) and used brentuximab vedotin after stem cell transplant, or after you received at least 3 kinds of treatment including autologous HSCT. This medicine is also used to treat squamous cell cancer of the head and neck that has come back or spread throughout the body after receiving medicines containing platinum. It is also used to treat patients with urothelial cancer (bladder cancer) that has spread or grown and have tried cancer medicines containing platinum but did not work well.

Nivolumab is a monoclonal antibody that affects the immune system and helps control the growth of cancer cells.

This medicine is to be given only by or under the supervision of your doctor.

Before Using This Medicine:

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 nivolumab injection in the pediatric population. Safety and efficacy have not been established.

Older adults—

Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated geriatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of nivolumab injection in the elderly.


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.

Other 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.

Other interactions—

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:

  • Crohn disease or
  • Immune system problems or
  • Kidney disease or
  • Liver disease or
  • Lung or breathing problems or
  • Stomach or bowel problems or
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus, SLE) or
  • Thyroid problems or
  • Ulcerative colitis—Use with caution. May make these conditions worse.

Proper Use of This Medicine:

Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before using 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. This medicine is given through a needle placed in one of your veins. It must be given slowly, so the needle will have to remain in place for 60 minutes. The infusion will be given every 2 weeks (when used alone) or every 3 weeks (when given with ipilimumab).

This medicine comes with a Medication Guide. It is very important that you read and understand this information. Be sure to ask your doctor about anything you do not understand.

Missed dose—

This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose or forget to use your medicine, call your doctor or pharmacist for instructions.

Precautions While Using This Medicine:

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.

Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant during treatment and for at least 5 months after the last dose of this medicine. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.

Tell your doctor right away if you have a cough, chest tightness, or any type of breathing problem with this medicine. These could be symptoms of a serious lung problem.

Colitis (inflammation of the colon) may occur with this medicine. Tell your doctor right away if you have stomach pain or tenderness, watery or bloody diarrhea, or a fever after receiving the medicine.

Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, a loss of appetite, nausea, unusual tiredness or weakness, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.

Adrenal, pituitary, or thyroid gland problems may occur while you are receiving this medicine. Tell your doctor if you have changes in mood or behavior, constipation, dry skin or hair, feeling cold, sensitivity to heat, sweating, trouble sleeping, unusual or continuing headaches, or weight changes.

Tell your doctor right away if you have bloody or cloudy urine, decrease in the amount of urine, nausea or vomiting, trouble breathing, swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs, unusual tiredness or weakness, or unusual weight gain. These may be symptoms of a serious kidney problem.

Check with your doctor if you have a headache, confusion, seizures, stiff neck, or vomiting while using this medicine. These may be symptoms of encephalitis.

This medicine may cause a rare but serious type of an allergic reaction called an infusion reaction. This can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you start to have a skin rash, dizziness, trouble breathing, chest tightness, swelling in your face or hands, fever or chills while you are receiving this medicine.

Side Effects of This Medicine:

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
blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
chest tightness
depressed mood
dry skin and hair
feeling cold
hair loss
hoarseness or husky voice
joint or muscle pain
loss of appetite
muscle cramps and stiffness
nausea and vomiting
red, irritated eyes
slowed heartbeat
sore throat
sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips
trouble breathing
unusual tiredness or weakness
weight gain
Less common
Chest pain
dark urine
general feeling of discomfort or illness
light-colored stools
sensitivity to heat
stomach cramps
thickening of bronchial secretions
trouble sleeping
upper right abdominal or stomach pain
watery or bloody diarrhea
weight loss
yellow eyes and skin
bloody or cloudy urine
blurred vision or other change in vision
darkening of the skin
eye pain
fast heartbeat
fruity breath odor
increased hunger, thirst, and urination
mental depression
pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
redness of the eye
sensitivity of the eye to light
skin rash
swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs

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
Stuffy or runny nose

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.

Last Updated: 7/4/2017
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