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interferon alfa-2a

Generic Name: interferon alfa-2a ( in ter FEAR on AL fa 2 A)
Brand Name: Roferon-A

What is interferon alfa-2a?

Interferon alfa-2a is a protein. Interferons are released in the body in response to viral infections. Interferons are important for fighting viruses in the body, regulating reproduction of cells, and regulating the immune system.

Interferon alfa-2a is used to treat chronic hepatitis C, hairy cell leukemia, AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, and some types of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

Interferon alfa-2a may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about interferon alfa-2a?

Call your doctor or seek emergency medical attention if you develop symptoms of depression or are contemplating suicide; become unusually irritable, anxious (nervous), or aggressive; or experience other mood or behavior changes. In some cases, interferon alfa-2a has caused serious mood or behavioral problems.

Problems with body organs such as the heart, lungs, and eyes have been experienced by people taking interferon alfa-2a or other similar drugs. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop difficulty breathing, chest pain, blurred vision, or loss of vision.

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Some patients taking interferon alfa-2a have developed a drop in the number of white blood cells and platelets. If the number of these blood cells are too low, there is an increased risk of infection or bleeding. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop a fever, symptoms of an infection, or unusual bleeding or bruising.

Use caution when driving, operating machinery, or performing other hazardous activities. Interferon alfa-2a may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired alertness. If you experience drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired alertness, avoid these activities.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before using interferon alfa-2a?

Do not use interferon alfa -2a without first talking to your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to an alfa interferon in the past or if you are allergic to E. coli derived products. Also, do not use interferon alfa-2a if you have an allergy to the preservative benzyl alcohol.

Before using interferon alfa-2a, talk to your doctor if you

  • a history of depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, drug or alcohol abuse, or another mental illness;

  • an active infection;

  • heart disease or history of a heart attack;

  • an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or psoriasis;

  • have a suppressed immune system or have received an organ transplant,

  • have a seizure disorder,

  • have diabetes,

  • have bone marrow suppression,

  • have kidney disease, or

  • have liver disease.

You may not be able to use interferon alfa-2a, or you may require a dosage adjustment or special monitoring during treatment if you have any of the conditions listed above.

Interferon alfa-2a is in the FDA pregnancy category C. This means that it is not known whether interferon alfa-2a will be harmful to an unborn baby. Do not use this medication without first talking to your doctor if you are pregnant or could become pregnant during treatment.

It is not known whether interferon alfa-2a passes into breast milk. Do not use this medication without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding.

How should I use interferon alfa-2a?

Use interferon alfa-2a exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not understand these directions, ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist to explain them to you.

Interferon alfa-2a is used as an intramuscular or subcutaneous injection only. Your doctor or nurse will give you detailed instructions on how and where to inject this medication. Do not inject this medication if you are unsure how.

Drink 6 to 8 full glasses of water daily to ensure adequate hydration, especially at the start of treatment.

Flulike symptoms are likely to occur. They are most common at the start of therapy and may decrease with continued use. Over-the-counter fever reducers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, others), and naproxen (Aleve), plenty of fluid, and taking the medication at bedtime may help to alleviate these symptoms.

Do not inject interferon alfa-2a if it is discolored or has particles in it.

Do not change the brand or generic formulation of interferon alfa-2a that you are using without first talking to your doctor or pharmacist. Some brands of interferon alfa-2a are interchangeable while others are not. Your doctor and/or pharmacist know which brand/generic formulations may be substituted for another.

Do not shake the vial of interferon alfa-2a. If mixing is required, the vial should be gently swirled.

If the interferon alfa-2a you are using is preservative-free, use only one dose from each vial. Throw away any medicine that is not used with the first dose, do not save it for later use

Never reuse a needle or syringe. Dispose of all needles and syringes in an appropriate, puncture-resistant disposal container.

Your doctor may want you to have blood tests performed before and periodically during treatment with an interferon alfa-2a.

It is not known whether treatment with alfa interferon will prevent the transmission of hepatitis to others. It is also not known whether alfa interferons will cure hepatitis or prevent cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer that may be the result of infection with a hepatitis virus.

Do not stop using this medication without first talking to your doctor.

Store interferon alfa-2a in the refrigerator between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 8 degrees Celsius). Do not allow interferon alfa-2a to freeze. The Roferon-A multidose vials of injectable solution should be used within 30 days after the first dose is taken from the vial.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Use the missed dose as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and use only the next regularly scheduled dose. Do not use a double dose of this medication.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if an overdose is suspected.

Symptoms of interferon alfa-2a overdose are not well known but may include decreased appetite, chills, fever, and muscle aches.

What should I avoid while using interferon alfa-2a?

Use caution when driving, operating machinery, or performing other hazardous activities. Interferon alfa-2a may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired alertness. If you experience drowsiness, dizziness, or impaired alertness, avoid these activities.

Interferon alfa-2a side effects

Call your doctor or seek emergency medical attention if you develop symptoms of depression or are contemplating suicide; become unusually irritable, anxious (nervous), or aggressive; or experience other mood or behavior changes. In some cases, interferon alfa-2a has caused serious mood or behavioral problems.

Problems with body organs such as the heart, lungs, and eyes have been experienced by people taking interferon alfa-2a or other similar drugs. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop difficulty breathing, chest pain, blurred vision, or loss of vision.

Some patients taking interferon alfa-2a have developed a drop in the number of white blood cells and platelets. If the number of these blood cells are too low, there is an increased risk of infection or bleeding. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop a fever, symptoms of an infection, or unusual bleeding or bruising.

If you experience an allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives), stop using interferon alfa-2a and seek emergency medical attention.

Flu-like symptoms are likely to occur. They are most common at the start of therapy and may decrease with continued use. Over-the-counter fever reducers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, others), and naproxen (Aleve), plenty of fluids, and taking the medication at bedtime may help to alleviate these symptoms. Continue to use interferon alfa-2a and notify your doctor if you experience

  • fever or chills;

  • fatigue;

  • headache;

  • muscle aches or sore joints;

  • numbness or tingling;

  • nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite;

  • diarrhea;

  • dizziness or drowsiness;

  • nervousness or anxiety;

  • insomnia;

  • loss or thinning of hair;

  • increased sweating;

  • itching or a rash; or

  • pain, redness, or bruising at the injection site.

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

Interferon alfa-2a dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Chronic Hepatitis C:

3 million intl units subcutaneously or IM three times a week for 48 to 52 weeks (12 months). Alternatively 6 million intl units three times a week for the first 12 weeks (3 months), followed by 3 million intl units three times a week for 36 weeks (9 months).

Usual Adult Dose for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia:

9 million intl units daily subcutaneously or IM.

Usual Adult Dose for Hairy Cell Leukemia:

Induction dose: 3 million intl units daily subcutaneously or IM for 16 to 24 weeks.
Maintenance dose: 3 million intl units three times a week for up to 24 consecutive months.

Usual Adult Dose for Kaposi's Sarcoma:

Induction dose: 36 million intl units daily subcutaneously or IM for 10 to 12 weeks.
Maintenance dose: 36 million intl units three times a week.

Usual Adult Dose for Lymphoma:

Study (n=5) - Lymphomatoid Papulosis
3 to 15 million intl units three times per week subcutaneously for up to 13 months.

Usual Adult Dose for Renal Cell Carcinoma:

Study (n=75) Metastatic Renal-Cell Carcinoma
subcutaneous injection three times weekly, 4.5 million units titrated upwards to 18 million units, as tolerated, during the first 4 weeks (weekly dose increases). The individual maintenance dose, based on tolerability of side effects, was continued for 3 weeks (out of a 4-week cycle), up to 2 years if the patient responds or has stable disease.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia:

Study (n=15)
2.5 to 5 million intl units/m2/day IM

Study (n=12) Philadelphia Chromosome-Positive CML
5 million intl units/m2/day subcutaneously (combined with Cytarabine 20 mg/m2/day for 10 days monthly).

What other drugs will affect interferon alfa-2a?

Before using interferon alfa-2a, tell your doctor if you are taking theophylline (Theo-Dur, Theochron, Theolair, others). Interferon alfa-2a may increase theophylline levels in the body, which could become dangerous.

Other drugs may also interact with interferon alfa-2a. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal products.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist has additional information about interferon alfa-2a written for health professionals that you may read.

What does my medication look like?

Interferon alfa-2a is available with a prescription under the brand name Roferon-A. Other brand or generic formulations may also be available. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about this medication, especially if it is new to you.

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with other, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 4.01. Revision Date: 2/13/04 1:43:07 PM.

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