Coartem

Coartem is a medication used to treat malaria infection. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how Coartem affects you.

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Pharmacist Trey Robinson, PharmD overviews the uses and common side effects of Coartem.
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Coartem Overview

Updated: 

Coartem is a prescription medication used to treat malaria, a blood infection caused by Plasmodium parasites. Coartem belongs to a group of drugs called antimalarial agents. These medications work by inhibiting nucleic acid and protein synthesis to interfere with the growth of Plasmodium organisms that cause malaria.

Coartem comes in tablet form and is usually taken twice daily for 3 days.
 
Common side effects of this medication include headache, fever, loss of appetite, and dizziness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how this medication affects you.

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Uses of Coartem

Coartem is a prescription medicine used to treat uncomplicated malaria in adults and children who weigh at least 11 pounds (5 kg).

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Manufacturer

Coartem Drug Class

Coartem is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Coartem

The most common side effects in adults are: 

  • headache 
  • feeling dizzy 
  • feeling weak 
  • loss of appetite 
  • muscle and joint pain or stiffness 
  • feeling tired 
  • chills 
  • fever

The most common side effects in children are:

  • fever 
  • cough 
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • loss of appetite

These are not all the possible side effects of Coartem. For more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist. \

Coartem can cause serious side effects. See "Drug Precautions" section.

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

 

Coartem Interactions

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Coartem and other medicines may affect each other causing side effects. Coartem may affect the way other medicines work and other medicines may affect how Coartem works.

Especially tell your doctor if you take:

  • any other medicines to treat or prevent malaria
  • medicines for your heart
  • antipsychotic medicines 
  • antidepressants
  • medicines for seizures or trigeminal neuralgia (facial nerve pain)
  • antibiotics (including medicines to treat tuberculosis)
  • antihistamines
  • Cisapride (Propulsid) 
  • medicines to treat HIV-infection
  • hormonal methods of birth control (for example, birth control pills or patch)

Ask your healthcare provider if you are not sure if your medicine is one that is listed above. Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of your medicines with you to show your healthcare providers when you get a new medicine.

 

Coartem Precautions

Coartem can cause serious side effects including:

  • A heart problem called QT prolongation that can cause an abnormal heartbeat can happen in people who take Coartem. The chance of this happening is higher in people with a family history of prolonged QT interval, low potassium (hypokalemia), and in people who take medicines to control heartbeats. 
  • Allergic reactions. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include: rash, hives, fast heartbeat, trouble swallowing or breathing, swelling of lips, tongue, face, tightness of the throat, or trouble speaking. If you have a serious allergic reaction, stop taking Coartem and get emergency medical help right away.

Do not take Coartem if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

Do not take Coartem if you are taking rifampin (medicine to treat leprosy or tuberculosis), certain medicines used to treat epilepsy (such as carbamazepine, phenytoin), or St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, a medicinal plant or extract of this medicinal plant).

Coartem Food Interactions

Do not drink grapefruit juice while you take Coartem. Drinking grapefruit juice during treatment with Coartem can cause you to have too much medicine in your blood.

 

Inform MD

Before you take Coartem, tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions including if you have:

  • heart disease or a family history of heart problems or heart disease
  • liver or kidney problems
  • recently taken other medicines used to treat malaria 
  • if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. Coartem may increase your risk for loss of pregnancy. Fetal defects have been reported when artemisinins are administered to animals. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking Coartem,
  • if you are breastfeeding. It is not known if Coartem passes into your breast milk. You and your doctor will decide the best way to feed your baby if you take this medication.

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Coartem and Pregnancy

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

The FDA categorizes medications based on safety for use during pregnancy. Five categories - A, B, C, D, and X, are used to classify the possible risks to an unborn baby when a medication is taken during pregnancy.

This medication falls into category C. Coartem may increase your risk for loss of pregnancy. Fetal defects have been reported when artemisinins are administered to animals. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking this medication. 

Coartem and Lactation

Tell your healthcare provider if you are breastfeeding. It is not known if Coartem passes into your breast milk. You and your doctor will decide the best way to feed your baby if you take Coartem.

Coartem Usage

  • Take Coartem exactly as prescribed.
  • If you weigh 77 pounds (35 kg) or more, one dose of Coartem is 4 tablets.
  • If you weigh less than 77 pounds (35 kg), your healthcare provider will tell you how many tablets to take for each dose.
  • A full course of treatment is 6 doses of Coartem taken over 3 days: 
    Day 1: take 1 dose; 8 hours later take 1 dose
    Day 2: take 1 dose in the morning, 1 dose in the evening
    Day 3: take 1 dose in the morning, 1 dose in the evening

Take Coartem for 3 days even if you are feeling better.

  • Every dose of Coartem should be taken with food, such as milk, infant formula, pudding, porridge, or broth. It is important for you to eat as soon as you can so that your malaria will go away and not get worse. 
  • Do not drink grapefruit juice while you take Coartem, Drinking grapefruit juice during treatment with Coartem can cause you to have too much medicine in your blood. 
  • Coartem may be crushed and mixed with one to two teaspoons of water in a clean container. 
  • If you vomit within 1 hour of taking Coartem you should take another dose of Coartem. If you vomit the second dose, tell your healthcare provider. A different medicine may need to be prescribed for you.

Tell your healthcare provider right away if:

  • your malaria does not get better 
  • you vomited any of your doses of Coartem 
  • you are not able to eat
  • you get flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, muscle pains, or headaches) again after you have finished your treatment with Coartem.
  • you have any change in the way your heart beats or a loss of consciousness (fainting). 

Coartem Overdose

If you take too much Coartem call your healthcare provider or local Poison Control Center, or seek emergency medical attention right away.

If Coartem is administered by a healthcare provider in a medical setting, it is unlikely that an overdose will occur. However, if overdose is suspected, seek emergency medical attention.
 

Other Requirements

  • Store Coartem between 59ºF to 86ºF (15ºC to 30ºC). 
  • Keep Coartem and all medicines out of the reach of children.