What is this medication for?
Epoetin alfa is synthetic erythropoietin. Erythropoietin is produced naturally in the body, mostly by the kidneys. It gives bone marrow the signal to produce red blood cells (RBCs), which carry oxygen in the blood. If the body does not produce enough erythropoietin, anemia (a lack of oxygen reaching the different parts of the body) can occur.
Epoetin alfa is used to treat anemia for people with chronic kidney failure, people with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy, and people with HIV who are taking the medication zidovudine. It is also used to reduce the need for blood transfusions in certain people scheduled for surgery.
Epoetin alfa works by increasing the production of RBCs. Your RBC counts may increase after 2 to 6 weeks of treatment.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you are not sure why you are being given this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop administering this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Epogen® is available as:
- 1 mL single dose preservative-free vial for injection
- 2,000 units per mL
- 3,000 units per mL
- 4,000 units per mL
- 10,000 units per mL
- 40,000 units per mL
- 2 mL multidose preserved vial for injection
- 1 mL multidose preserved injection
Some medications may have other generic brands available. Always ask your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of switching between brands of the same medication.
How should I use this medication?
The usual starting dose is based on body weight and may differ depending on the reason why you are receiving the medication. Your doctor may need to adjust the dose according to your body's response to the medication. Your doctor may want you to take iron supplements while you are being treated with epoetin alfa to help it work as well as possible.
Epoetin alfa is available as an injection which is given subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously (into a vein). If you are using this medication at home, be sure you understand exactly how it is to be injected as instructed by your doctor or nurse. Refer to the "Patient Information" provided with your medication for complete instructions. If you are not sure how to administer this medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are administering the medication without consulting your doctor.
It is important to inject this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, administer it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not administer a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store this medication in the fridge, protect it from light and freezing, and keep it out of the reach of children. Do not shake before using.
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Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not use this medication if you:
- are allergic to epoetin alfa, human albumin, mammalian cell-derived products, or any ingredients of the medication
- have had a rare reaction called pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) after previous epoetin administration
- have uncontrolled high blood pressure
Multiple dose vials should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women, or given to babies less than 1 year old.