Store darbepoetin alfa injections in a fridge.
If you accidentally miss a dose, contact your doctor to discuss when you should inject the next dose.
Remember to keep your regular appointments with your doctor or clinic so that your progress can be checked.
About darbepoetin alfa
|Type of medicine||An erythropoietin|
|Used for||Anaemia associated with chronic kidney disease and some cancer treatments|
|Also called||Aranesp® and Aranesp® SureClick|
|Available as||Prefilled pens and syringes for injection|
Having anaemia means that you have either fewer red blood cells than normal, or less haemoglobin than normal in each red blood cell. Haemoglobin is a protein which carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and also carries the waste product carbon dioxide back to your lungs. As a result of having less haemoglobin than normal, there is less oxygen available to the cells of your body and this can make you 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. It is given by an injection.
Some people having anti-cancer treatments also develop anaemia. This is because the medicines used for the treatment of the cancer can also stop the bone marrow from producing sufficient red blood cells. Here again, darbepoetin encourages the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
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 using darbepoetin alfa it is important that your doctor knows:
- If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
- If you have any problems with the way your liver works.
- 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 a 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 the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about how to use darbepoetin alfa, and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from using it.
- Darbepoetin alfa is given by injection. It will be given during dialysis, or by a doctor or nurse, or alternatively, you could be trained how to give the injections to yourself. It is important that you give the injections exactly as your doctor tells you to. You will be told what dose is right for you and how often the injections should be given. If you have chronic kidney disease, darbepoetin alfa is usually 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 usually given as a single injection under the surface of your skin either once a week or once every three weeks. Please carefully follow the directions your doctor gives to you and ask if you are unsure about anything.
- If you miss a dose for any reason, please contact your doctor or clinic to find out when the next injection should be given.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Make sure that 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 that the amount of haemoglobin in your blood stays within a certain range. If your level were to become too high, it could put you at risk of serious heart or blood vessel problems (even a heart attack or stroke).
- It will be a few weeks before you notice the effect from the treatment. This is because it takes your body a few weeks to make more red blood cells.
Can darbepoetin alfa 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 darbepoetin alfa. 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 darbepoetin alfa side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Allergic reactions, high blood pressure||Your doctor will check on your progress to reduce the risk of these, but if you have any concerns, please discuss them with your doctor|
|Common darbepoetin alfa side-effects (these affect less than 1 in 10 people)||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Pain, rash, or redness at the injection site||Make sure you rotate the sites where the injection is given. 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, please discuss it with your doctor|
|Swollen feet or ankles (fluid retention), blood clots, and stroke||Your doctor will discuss the risk of these with you before you begin treatment|
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, or any difficulties breathing. 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 the injection, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.
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
Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have had 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.
If you are having an operation or dental treatment, please tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
If you buy any medicines, check with a doctor or pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take with your other medicines.
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, Aranesp SureClick®; Amgen Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2015.
- British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 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