Epogen (epoetin alfa) is a man-made form of a protein that helps your body produce red blood cells. The amount of this protein in your body may be reduced when you have kidney failure or use certain medications. When fewer red blood cells are produced, you can develop a condition called anemia.
Epogen is used to treat anemia (a lack of red blood cells in the body) in patients with chronic kidney disease. Epogen is also used in HIV patients who have anemia due to treatment with zidovudine and in cancer patients who have anemia due to chemotherapy.
You should not use Epogen if you are allergic to epoetin alfa or darbepoetin alfa or (Aranesp), or if you have:
- untreated or uncontrolled high blood pressure; or
- if you have ever had pure red cell aplasia (PRCA, a type of anemia) caused by using darbepoetin alfa or epoetin alfa.
To make sure you can safely use Epogen, tell your doctor if you have any of these other conditions:
- heart disease, congestive heart failure, or high blood pressure (hypertension);
- kidney disease (or if you are on dialysis);
- a history of stroke, heart attack, or blood clots;
- a blood cell or clotting disorder, such as sickle cell anemia or hemophilia;
- cancer; or
- epilepsy or another seizure disorder.
Epogen is made from human plasma (part of the blood) which may contain viruses and other infectious agents. Donated plasma is tested and treated to reduce the risk of it containing infectious agents, but there is still a small possibility it could transmit disease. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of using this medication.
FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether Epogen will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication. It is not known whether epoetin alfa passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use Epogen without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. Some women using Epogen have started having menstrual periods, even after not having a period for a long time due to a medical condition. You may be able to get pregnant if your periods restart. Talk with your doctor about the need to use birth control while you are using Epogen.
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Epogen: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Contact your doctor if you feel weak, lightheaded, or short of breath, or if your skin looks pale. These may be signs that your body has stopped responding to this medication.
Epogen can increase your risk of life-threatening heart or circulation problems, including heart attack or stroke. This risk will increase the longer you use Epogen.
Seek emergency medical help if you have symptoms of heart or circulation problems, such as:
- chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;
- feeling short of breath, even with mild exertion;
- swelling, rapid weight gain;
- sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
- sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance; or
- pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs.
Stop using Epogen and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
- feeling light-headed, fainting;
- fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, sores in your mouth and throat;
- pale skin, feeling short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating;
- easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;
- seizure (black-out or convulsions);
- low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling); or
- dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure).
Less serious Epogen side effects may include:
- cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat;
- joint pain, bone pain;
- muscle pain, muscle spasm;
- dizziness, depression, mild headache;
- weight loss;
- sleep problems (insomnia);
- nausea, vomiting, trouble swallowing; or
- pain or tenderness where you injected the medication.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.