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Cladribine is used in treatment of hairy cell leukemia (type of white blood cell  cancer) and B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (illness caused by the abnormal growth of a type of white blood cell called B-cells) that has not responded to standard anti-cancer treatment.

How it works

Cladribine is a cytotoxic drug that works by killing abnormal white blood cells by affecting their growth and repair.

Common side effects

Nausea, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Headache, Increased sweating, Injection site pain, Injection site redness, Injection site swelling, Loss of appetite, Skin rash, Stomach pain, Vomiting


Expert advice

  • Cladribine is not recommended for use in children.
  • Men should not father a child until at least 6 months after the last dose of cladribine.
  • Your liver and kidney function should be monitored if you ever had liver, bone marrow or kidney problems or are suffering from any infection or fever.
  • Tell your doctor before taking cladribine if you are already been given live vaccine or antiviral drugs like didanosine, tenofovir, adefovir etc.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery as cladribine may make you dizzy.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is cladribine a vesicant? 
Cladribine is not a vesicant (a chemical compound that causes severe skin, eye and mucosal pain and irritation). 
Q. Is cladribine FDA approved?
Yes, cladribine was approved by US FDA in 2004 to treat hairy cell leukemia (type of white blood cell cancer).
Q. Does cladribine cause hair loss?
No, cladribine does not cause hair loss.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 September, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)