About darbepoetin alfa
|Type of medicine||An erythropoietin|
|Used for||Anaemia associated with chronic kidney failure and some cancer treatments|
|Also called||Aranesp® and Aranesp® SureClick|
|Available as||Prefilled pens and syringes for injection|
If you have anaemia, it means that you have either fewer red blood cells than normal, or less haemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell. Haemoglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and also carries the waste product carbon dioxide back to your lungs. Having anaemia causes you to feel tired, dizzy, and short of breath.
People with chronic kidney disease are particularly prone to anaemia. This is because the kidneys normally produce a hormone called erythropoietin which controls how many red blood cells your body makes. When your kidneys do not work as well as they should, your kidneys do not produce enough of this hormone. Darbepoetin alfa is similar to erythropoietin and works by encouraging your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
In some people who are having anti-cancer treatment, the medicines used stop the bone marrow from producing enough red blood cells. Darbepoetin is sometimes used to treat the anaemia that this causes.
Before using darbepoetin alfa
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking darbepoetin alfa it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have problems with your liver.
- If you take medicines to control your blood pressure.
- If you have epilepsy.
- If you are being treated for cancer.
- If you have sickle cell disease.
- If you have any problems with your blood vessels, or if you have recently had a heart attack, or stroke.
- If you have previously had a poor response to any medicines used to treat anaemia.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
- If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
How to use darbepoetin alfa
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about how to use darbepoetin alfa, and a full list of possible side-effects from using it.
- Darbepoetin alfa is given by injection. It may be given by your doctor or nurse, or you may be trained how to give the injections to yourself. It is important that you give the injections exactly as your doctor tells you to. If you have chronic kidney failure, it is given as a single injection under the surface of your skin either once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month. If you are receiving chemotherapy, it is given as a single injection under the surface of your skin once a week or once every three weeks. Follow the directions your doctor gives to you carefully, and ask if you are unsure about anything.
- If you miss a dose, contact your doctor or clinic to find out when you should inject the next dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Make sure you keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have regular blood tests to make sure your haemoglobin stays within a certain range. This is because if your level becomes too high it could put you at risk of serious heart or blood vessel problems such as a heart attack or stroke.
- It will be a few weeks before you notice the effect from this treatment. This is because it takes your body a few weeks to make more blood cells.
- If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are having darbepoetin alfa.
Can darbepoetin alfa cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common darbepoetin alfa side-effects - these affect around 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Pain or redness at the injection site||Any discomfort is generally mild and should only last for a short time. It is more common at the start of treatment, but if it continues, discuss it with your doctor|
|Allergic reactions, high blood pressure, swollen feet or ankles (fluid retention), blood clots and stroke||Your doctor will check on your progress, to reduce the risk of these, but if you have any concerns, discuss them with your doctor|
Important: if you get any of the following symptoms you must contact your doctor as soon as possible for urgent treatment or advice:
- Any swelling of your face or mouth, any difficulties breathing, or a severe skin rash. These may be signs of a serious allergic reaction.
- A stabbing or migraine-like headache, or if you feel confused, have problems with your eyesight, or have a fit. These may be warning signs of a sudden rise in your blood pressure.
- Extreme or unusual tiredness, and a lack of energy. This may be a sign of a rare condition called pure red cell aplasia (PRCA), which is where you body stops producing red blood cells.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store darbepoetin alfa
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a refrigerator (2°C-8°C). Do not freeze.
- You can take the injection out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes before you use it.
- Once the injection has been left at room temperature, it must be used within seven days or disposed of.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 63rd Edition (Mar 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Aranesp SureClick®; Amgen Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated December 2011.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen||Peer Reviewer: Dr Adrian Bonsall|
|Last Checked: 13/08/2012||Document ID: 1411 Version: 23||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.