Epoetin Alfa

Epoetin Alfa (Procrit®)

About This Drug

Epoetin alfa is used to treat anemia. It helps your body make more red blood cells. It can be given in the vein (IV) or by injection under your skin (subcutaneously).

Possible Side Effects

  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Bone, muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting)
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat
  • High Blood Pressure. Your doctor will check your blood pressure as needed
  • Cough
  • Blood sugar levels may changes. If you are diabetic, changes may need to be made to your diabetes medication.
  • Weight loss
  • Electrolyte changes. Your blood will be checked for electrolyte changes as needed. Depression
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Decrease in the number of white blood cells
  • Difficulty swallowing

Note: Each of the side effects above was reported in 5% or greater of patients treated with epoetin alfa. Not all possible side effects are included above.

Warnings and Precautions

  • Heart problems. If you are treated with epoetin alfa to increase your red blood cells to near the same level as healthy people, you may get serious heart problems such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure which could result in death. Your hemoglobin level will be checked as needed.
  • Blood clots. Blood clots and events such as stroke and heart attack. A blood clot in your leg may cause your leg to swell, appear red and warm, and/or cause pain. A blood clot in your lungs may cause trouble breathing, pain when breathing, and/or chest pain.
  • Seizure. Common symptoms of a seizure can include confusion, blacking out, passing out, loss of hearing or vision, blurred vision, unusual smells or tastes (such as burning rubber), trouble talking, tremors or shaking in parts or all of the body, repeated body movements, tense muscles that do not relax, and loss of control of urine and bowels. There are other less common symptoms of seizures. If you or your family member suspects you are having a seizure, call 911 right away.
  • If you have cancer, your tumor may grow faster and you may die sooner if epoetin alfa is used.
  • Antibodies to epoetin alfa. Your body may make antibodies to epoetin alfa. These antibodies can block or lessen your body’s ability to make red blood cells and can cause you to have severe anemia. This is extremely rare.
  • Allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis are rare but may happen in some patients. Signs of allergic reaction to this drug may be swelling of the face, feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling, trouble breathing, rash, itching, fever, chills, feeling dizzy, and/or feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way. If this happens, do not take another dose of this drug. You should get urgent medical treatment.

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink plenty of fluids (a minimum of eight glasses per day is recommended).
  • If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • To help with nausea and vomiting, eat small, frequent meals instead of three large meals a day. Choose foods and drinks that are at room temperature. Ask your nurse or doctor about other helpful tips and medicine that is available to help or stop lessen these symptoms.
  • Manage tiredness by pacing your activities for the day. Be sure to include periods of rest between energy-draining activities
  • If you get a rash do not put anything on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
  • Keeping your pain under control is important to your well-being. Please tell your doctor or nurse if you are experiencing pain.
  • To help with itching, moisturize your skin several times day
  • Avoid sun exposure and apply sunscreen routinely when outdoors
  • If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your nurse or doctor on tips to help you sleep better.
  • If you are feeling depressed, talk to your nurse or doctor about it
  • To help with weight loss, drink fluids that contribute calories (whole milk, juice, soft drinks, sweetened beverages, milkshakes, and nutritional supplements) instead of water.
  • If you’re diabetic, keep good control of your blood sugar level. Tell your nurse or your doctor if your glucose levels are higher or lower than normal.

Food and Drug Interactions

  • There are no known interactions of epoetin alfa with food.
  • This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor’s help.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have any of these symptoms and/or any new or unusual symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • A headache that does not go away
  • Blurry vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Pain in your chest
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. The pain may go away and come back or it can be constant. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes pain is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Symptoms of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, mostly on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, bad headache with no known cause. If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking and/or is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Lasting loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in a week
  • Abnormal blood sugar
  • Unusual thirst, passing urine often, headache, sweating, shakiness, irritability
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities
  • New rash and/or itching
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Your leg is swollen, red, warm and/or painful
  • Pain that does not go away, or is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Lose interest in your daily activities that you used to enjoy and feeling this way every day, and/or you feel hopelessness
  • Symptoms of a seizure such as confusion, blacking out, passing out, loss of hearing or vision, blurred vision, unusual smells or tastes (such as burning rubber), trouble talking, tremors or shaking in parts or all of the body, repeated body movements, tense muscles that do not relax, and loss of control of urine and bowels. If you or your family member suspects you are having a seizure, call 911 right away.
  • Signs of allergic reaction: swelling of the face, feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling, trouble breathing, rash, itching, fever, chills, feeling dizzy, and/or feeling that your heart is beating in a fast or not normal way

Reproduction Warnings

  • Pregnancy warning: It is not known if this drug may harm an unborn child. For this reason, be sure to talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while getting this drug.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and cause harm to a breast feeding baby.

Revised June 2017