This drug lowers the number of blood cells produced by your bone marrow.
Hydroxycarbamide (formerly known as hydroxyurea) is a very common treatment for all MPDs. Hydroxycarbamide comes as a capsule and is taken orally. Most people who take the drug in low doses find that they don’t have too many side effects.
Hydroxycarbamide reduces the number of blood cells produced by your bone marrow. Hydroxycarbamide is considered a chemotherapy drug because it slows the growth of blood cells, but when you have an MPD you in fact take quite low doses of this drug.
Hydroxycarbamide reduces production of all blood cells by slowing cell division in the bone marrow.
Most people tolerate hydroxycarbamide very well because it comes as a capsule and is easy to take. It is also very effective at bringing blood counts down to normal levels, reducing the risk of clots or bleeding in most people with MPDs.
People taking hydroxycarbamide may feel fewer of the symptoms they experience with an MPD. The drug often reduces headaches, visual problems, fatigue, tingling in fingers and toes and itching.
Low cell counts Hydroxycarbamide can cause side effects because the drug reduces blood cell counts across the board.
Your haematologist will monitor your blood counts to ensure your blood counts don’t drop too low. It is important you do not miss any of your clinic appointments. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, you should contact your doctor right away.
There may be risks to taking hydroxycarbamide over a period of many years.
If you have questions about long-term risks, please talk with your doctor.
Yes. We recommend that you eat a normal, healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
While it is safe to drink alcohol in moderation while taking hydroxycarbamide, we recommend you do not exceed the recommended weekly limits of 21 units of alcohol per week for a man and 14 units for a woman. Alcohol can cause dehydration, and it is important to avoid becoming dehydrated if you have an MPD. Please ask your nurse or doctor if you require more information regarding alcohol consumption.
We recommend against taking hydroxycarbamide if you are trying to become pregnant or to father a child. Please see our pregnancy section for more information on pregnancy in MPDs.
Your doctor, specially-trained nurse, hospital pharmacist or sometimes your GP will prescribe your medication.
Hydroxycarbamide is not known to cause drowsiness that could affect your driving, however if you are feeling drowsy or fatigued for any reason do not drive.
Your skin may be more sensitive to sun whilst you are taking hydroxycarbamide. You may need to protect your skin by avoiding exposure to the sun, using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing and a hat.
If you are undergoing radiotherapy (radiation treatment) you need to stop taking hydroxycarbamide. Please check with your medical team for detailed information.
Yes, you can have most vaccinations including the flu vaccine whilst taking hydroxycarbamide. Some vaccinations are live vaccines and these should not be taken with hydroxycarbamide. It is important you tell the person giving you the vaccine that you are taking hydroxycarbamide so they can verify it is safe for you to be vaccinated.
If you’d like more information you can download our leaflets about MPD medications.
Most people who take hydroxy-carbamide in low doses find that they don’t experience too many side effects.