Generic Name Brand Name
hydroxyurea Droxia, Hydrea

Hydroxyurea is available as a pill you can swallow. It is also known as hydroxycarbamide.

How It Works

Hydroxyurea keeps cancer cells from growing. It is used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and, rarely, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). It is sometimes used to treat sickle cell disease or other cancer.

Why It Is Used

Hydroxyurea is used to treat CML and CLL because it works fast and does not cause many side effects.

How Well It Works

CML and CLL can cause your white blood cell count to get too high. Hydroxyurea can reduce white blood cell counts within 1 or 2 days. It can be used during pregnancy in many cases.1

Side Effects

Side effects of hydroxyurea are generally mild and can include:

  • Low blood counts, which may increase the risk of infection and bleeding.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis).
  • Blackening of the fingernails and toenails.
  • Skin ulcers (uncommon side effect).
  • Rashes.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Hydroxyurea should be used only under the supervision of a medical oncologist or hematologist. He or she will monitor your blood counts regularly.

Hydroxyurea is still an experimental treatment in children. Long-term effects of the drug on children are not yet known.

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  1. Rabinowitz I, Larson, RS (2004): Chronic myeloid leukemia. In JP Greer et al., eds., Wintrobe's Clinical Hematology, 11th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2235-2258. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Last Updated: November 26, 2008

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