Erivedge (vismodegib)

Erivedge® (vismodegib) is used to treat certain aggressive cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Metastatic BCC is cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body. Locally advanced BCC may generally be defined as cancer that is still confined to the skin tumor, but it is large, recurrent, or difficult to treat.1

Vismodegib is approved to treat2:

  • Metastatic BCC
  • Locally advanced BCC that has recurred (come back) after surgery or that cannot be treated with surgery or radiation

Vismodegib does not come in generic form. Vismodegib is similar to Odomzo® (sonidegib), another drug that is approved to treat certain kinds of advanced basal cell carcinoma.

How does Vismodegib work?

Vismodegib blocks a cell signaling pathway called Hedgehog.2 This pathway has a role in the development of hair follicles and glands. It also helps to control skin growth.

Key players in the Hedgehog pathway are two receptors called PTCH1 (“Patched”) and SMO (“Smoothened”).3 In normal cells, PTCH1 acts like an off-switch for SMO. It prevents SMO from sending signals for cell division and survival.

In about 80% of BCC tumors, PTCH1 is mutated.4 Mutated PTCH1 does not turn SMO off, so SMO starts sending out signals. This leads to uncontrolled cell growth and survival.

Vismodegib works by blocking the SMO receptor.2 It is called a targeted therapy, because it targets one feature that makes cancer cells different from normal cells.

Receiving vismodegib

Before taking Vismodegib, read the Medication Guide that comes in the package. Follow your doctor’s instructions for dosing and duration.

Vismodegib comes as a capsule that is taken by mouth. Based on your doctor’s instructions, you will continue taking Vismodegib until the cancer progresses or the side effects are unacceptable.2

Patients should take their medication as prescribed by their doctor. Patients should talk to their doctor if they have any questions, or if they have questions regarding their vismodegib regimen.

What are the side effects of Vismodegib?

Nearly all patients experience at least one side effect.6 Most are mild or moderate. The most common side effects of Vismodegib include:2

  • Muscle spasms
  • Hair loss
  • Taste changes, loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation)
  • Pain in the joints

Women may stop having a menstrual period while taking Vismodegib. It is not known whether this change is permanent.

This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Vismodegib. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for further information.

Who should not take Vismodegib?

If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, talk with your doctor. Vismodegib can cause stillbirth or severe birth defects and should not be taken by women who are pregnant.2 While receiving Vismodegib, females who can become pregnant should use contraceptives during treatment and for a period of time after completing treatment (patients should discuss appropriate birth control methods, and how long they need to use them, with their doctor). Females should not breastfeed during Vismodegib treatment and for a period of time following the final dose (patients should discuss breastfeeding considerations with their doctor).

Vismodegib is present in semen.2 While receiving Vismodegib, males with female partners who are pregnant, or who can become pregnant, should always use a condom during sex throughout treatment and for a period of time after completing treatment (patients should discuss appropriate birth control methods, and how long they need to use them, with their doctor).

What precautions are needed when taking Vismodegib?

During treatment with Vismodegib and for 24 months after the last dose:2

  • Do not donate blood or blood products.

During treatment with Vismodegib and for 3 months after the last dose, male patients should not donate semen.

Before starting treatment with Vismodegib, patients should tell their doctor about all their health conditions, as well as any medications (prescription and over-the-counter), herbal supplements, and vitamins they are taking.

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Written by: Sarah O'Brien | Last reviewed: June 30, 2021