Take deferiprone three times every day - take the first dose in the morning, the second at lunchtime and the third in the evening.
The most common side-effects are feeling sick and tummy (abdominal) pain. Your urine is also likely to turn a reddish-brown colour but this is harmless.
If you develop a high temperature, any flu-like symptoms or a sore throat, please see a doctor for advice straightaway.
|Type of medicine||An iron chelator|
|Used for||Iron overload in conditions such as thalassaemia major|
|Available as||Tablets and oral liquid medicine|
Thalassaemia is an inherited (genetic) condition affecting the blood. Your red blood cells contain a protein called haemoglobin which carries oxygen around your body and gives your blood its red colour. In people with thalassaemia, part of the haemoglobin is faulty and does not work properly. If there is not enough normal haemoglobin in your blood, you become anaemic. As a consequence, your body tries to make more haemoglobin and more red blood cells, and goes into overproduction mode.
As a result of the combination of overproduction, a need for regular blood transfusions of normal red blood cells to treat the anaemia, and also because your condition makes your body absorb a lot of iron from food, you can become overloaded with iron. Deferiprone is a chelation treatment, which means that it helps your body to get rid of excess iron. It works by combining with the extra iron to form a complex which your body can remove. It will be prescribed for you if other (usually preferred) treatments are either unsuitable for you, or insufficient to control your symptoms.
Before taking deferiprone
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking deferiprone it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have any problems with the way your liver works, or any problems with the way your kidneys work.
- If you have been told you have a low number of white cells in your blood.
- 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.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
How to take deferiprone
- Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about deferiprone and will also provide you with a full list of side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
- Take deferiprone exactly as you are told to by your doctor. Your dose will depend upon how much you weigh, so your doctor will tell you how many tablets or how much medicine to take. The directions for taking the medicine will also be printed on the label of the pack to remind you about what the doctor said to you. You will be asked to take three doses every day. Take your first dose in the morning, your second dose around lunchtime and your third dose in the evening. You can take deferiprone either before or after meals.
- There are two different strengths of tablet available - 500 mg and 1 g. Your dose may include a combination of both strengths of tablet.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Try to take the correct number of doses each day but do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.
- Treatment with deferiprone is usually long-term, although your treatment may need to be interrupted if you develop an infection. Continue to take the tablets/medicine regularly unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have regular weekly blood tests during treatment.
- Deferiprone may cause your urine to turn a red/brown colour. This is the iron being removed from your body and is nothing for you to worry about as it is quite harmless.
- If you need to take an indigestion remedy, choose one that does not contain aluminium. Your pharmacist will be able to give you advice about which antacids and other medicines are suitable for you to buy 'over the counter'.
- You must not become pregnant while you are taking deferiprone. Please make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner.
- If you are due to have an operation or any dental treatment, always tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
Can deferiprone cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with deferiprone. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.
|Very common deferiprone side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling or being sick, tummy (abdominal) pain||Try taking deferiprone after eating some food if you are not already doing so|
|Red/brown-coloured urine||This is harmless|
|Common side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Headache, other aches and pains||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Diarrhoea||Drink plenty of water to replace any lost fluids|
|Feeling tired, increased appetite||If either of these becomes troublesome, speak with your doctor|
|A reduced white blood cell count, an increase in liver enzymes||Your doctor will do regular blood tests to check for these but if at any time you develop a high temperature, flu-like symptoms or a sore throat, you should let your doctor know about this as soon as possible|
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the medicine, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
How to store deferiprone
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- Once a bottle of liquid medicine has been opened, it will keep for 35 days. Please obtain a fresh supply after this time.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Ferriprox® 500 mg film-coated tablets; Swedish Orphan Biovitrum Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated April 2013.
- British National Formulary; 70th Edition (Sep 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
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.
Dr Adrian Bonsall