Erythropoietin Stimulating Agents
|Generic Name||Brand Name|
|epoetin alfa||Epogen, Procrit|
Erythropoietin stimulating agents can be given two ways. They may
be injected into a vein with an intravenous (IV) needle or injected under the
skin (subcutaneous). Talk to your doctor about which way is best for you.
How It Works
Erythropoietin stimulating agents cause the bone
marrow to produce more red blood cells, and they decrease your need for blood
transfusions. Anemia often occurs because of a decrease in
erythropoietin, a hormone produced by the kidneys.
Injections of erythropoietin stimulating agents replace this hormone.
Why It Is Used
Erythropoietin stimulating agents replace the
erythropoietin normally made by the kidneys. Therapy with erythropoietin stimulating agents may be used to treat anemia:
hemodialysis. This is the most common use of this
therapy. The use of erythropoietin stimulating agents in people receiving hemodialysis
has almost eliminated the need for
- When chronic kidney
disease is present but kidney failure has not yet developed. Treatment with
erythropoietin stimulating agents may delay the need to start dialysis. It improves
anemia in most people who have not started dialysis.
How Well It Works
Erythropoietin stimulating agents treat
anemia by increasing the number of new red blood cells your body makes. This
may decrease your need for blood transfusions. Your dose of an erythropoietin stimulating agent may need to be adjusted so that you can keep a certain red blood cell count
Things that may make this therapy less effective
- Too little iron in the blood (iron deficiency). This is the most common reason that
erythropoietin stimulating agents may not be effective. Iron deficiency can be treated
with oral or intravenous iron (iron therapy) to increase the amount of iron in
- Decreased sensitivity to
- High levels of aluminum in your body, which may
interfere with your ability to use iron.
- Dialysis procedures that
are not removing enough fluids or wastes from your body (inadequate
- Too little protein in the diet (protein
- Vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin B12 or folate.
- Ongoing bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract.
High blood pressure can develop during treatment with erythropoietin stimulating agents.
It may be
dangerous to use erythropoietin stimulating agents to increase your red blood cell
(hemoglobin) levels above 12 g/dL. Hemoglobin levels that are too high may
increase your risk for death, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Talk
with your doctor about your concerns. And keep all your appointments for blood
See Drug Reference for a full list of side
effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Most people do not have problems
with erythropoietin stimulating agents. They can help improve how well you feel and
increase your appetite, energy, and activity levels.
Erythropoietin therapy is expensive.
Your doctor may need to make adjustments in your dose to find the amount that
gives you the most benefit but costs the least.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Mitchell H. Rosner, MD - Nephrology|
|Last Revised||September 15, 2011|