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Interferon Alfa-2a

Generic Name: Interferon Alfa-2a (in ter FEER on AL fa too aye)

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 21, 2020.

Warning

  • Alpha interferons may cause mental health problems or make them worse. Suicide or suicidal thoughts, thoughts of hurting others, depression, forceful actions, hallucinations, and other mood or behavior problems have happened during treatment and within 6 months after the last dose. Relapse of drug addiction has also happened. Alpha interferons may also cause or make infections, blood flow problems, or autoimmune diseases worse. Sometimes, these may be deadly. If you think you have any of these health problems, call your doctor right away. Side effects such as high or low blood pressure, a fast or abnormal heartbeat, chest pain or pressure, trouble breathing, heart attacks, and strokes have happened. Closely read the part in this leaflet which lists when to call your doctor. Many times, but not every time, these side effects get better after stopping interferon alfa-2a.

Uses of Interferon Alfa-2a:

  • It is used to treat cancer.
  • It is used to treat hepatitis B and C infections.
  • It is used to treat advanced HIV-associated Kaposi's sarcoma.
  • It may be given to you for other reasons. Talk with the doctor.

What do I need to tell my doctor BEFORE I take Interferon Alfa-2a?

For all patients taking interferon alfa-2a:

  • If you are allergic to interferon alfa-2a; any part of interferon alfa-2a; or any other drugs, foods, or substances. Tell your doctor about the allergy and what signs you had.
  • If you have any of these health problems: Kidney disease or liver disease.
  • If you have an autoimmune disease.
  • If you have seizures or any other brain or nervous system problem.
  • If you have bone marrow disease.
  • If you have ever had heart failure (weak heart) or other heart problems.
  • If you are taking any drugs that suppress your immune system. There are many drugs that can do this. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure.

Children:

  • If your child is younger than 3 years of age. Do not give to a child younger than 3 years of age.

This is not a list of all drugs or health problems that interact with interferon alfa-2a.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your drugs (prescription or OTC, natural products, vitamins) and health problems. You must check to make sure that it is safe for you to take interferon alfa-2a with all of your drugs and health problems. Do not start, stop, or change the dose of any drug without checking with your doctor.

What are some things I need to know or do while I take Interferon Alfa-2a?

For all uses of interferon alfa-2a:

  • Tell all of your health care providers that you take interferon alfa-2a. This includes your doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.
  • Avoid driving and doing other tasks or actions that call for you to be alert until you see how interferon alfa-2a affects you.
  • Have blood work checked as you have been told by the doctor. Talk with the doctor.
  • Have an eye exam as you have been told by your doctor.
  • If you have high blood sugar (diabetes), talk with your doctor. This medicine may raise blood sugar.
  • Check your blood sugar as you have been told by your doctor.
  • You may have more chance of getting an infection. Wash hands often. Stay away from people with infections, colds, or flu.
  • You may bleed more easily. Be careful and avoid injury. Use a soft toothbrush and an electric razor.
  • This medicine may be used with other drugs to treat your health condition. If you are also taking other drugs, talk with your doctor about the risks and side effects that may happen.
  • If you are 65 or older, use interferon alfa-2a with care. You could have more side effects.
  • This medicine has benzyl alcohol in it. Benzyl alcohol may cause very bad and sometimes deadly side effects in newborns or infants. This medicine is not approved for use in children. Talk with the doctor.
  • If you are a man and have sex with a female who could get pregnant, protect her from pregnancy. Use birth control that you can trust.
  • Use birth control that you can trust to prevent pregnancy while taking interferon alfa-2a.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan on getting pregnant. You will need to talk about the benefits and risks of using interferon alfa-2a while you are pregnant.

Hepatitis infection:

  • This medicine does not stop the spread of diseases like HIV or hepatitis that are passed through blood or having sex. Do not have any kind of sex without using a latex or polyurethane condom. Do not share needles or other things like toothbrushes or razors.

How is this medicine (Interferon Alfa-2a) best taken?

Use interferon alfa-2a as ordered by your doctor. Read all information given to you. Follow all instructions closely.

  • It is given as a shot into the fatty part of the skin.
  • Move the site where you give the shot with each shot.
  • Do not give into skin that is irritated, bruised, red, infected, or scarred.
  • Do not use if the solution is cloudy, leaking, or has particles.
  • This medicine is colorless to a faint yellow. Do not use if the solution changes color.
  • Throw syringe away after use. Do not use the same syringe more than one time.
  • Throw away needles in a needle/sharp disposal box. Do not reuse needles or other items. When the box is full, follow all local rules for getting rid of it. Talk with a doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
  • Keep using interferon alfa-2a as you have been told by your doctor or other health care provider, even if you feel well.
  • Drink lots of noncaffeine liquids unless told to drink less liquid by your doctor.

What do I do if I miss a dose?

  • Call your doctor to find out what to do.

What are some side effects that I need to call my doctor about right away?

WARNING/CAUTION: Even though it may be rare, some people may have very bad and sometimes deadly side effects when taking a drug. Tell your doctor or get medical help right away if you have any of the following signs or symptoms that may be related to a very bad side effect:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Signs of infection like fever, chills, very bad sore throat, ear or sinus pain, cough, more sputum or change in color of sputum, pain with passing urine, mouth sores, or wound that will not heal.
  • Signs of bleeding like throwing up or coughing up blood; vomit that looks like coffee grounds; blood in the urine; black, red, or tarry stools; bleeding from the gums; abnormal vaginal bleeding; bruises without a cause or that get bigger; or bleeding you cannot stop.
  • Signs of depression, thoughts of suicide, nervousness, emotional ups and downs, thinking that is not normal, anxiety, or lack of interest in life.
  • Signs of high blood sugar like confusion, feeling sleepy, more thirst, more hungry, passing urine more often, flushing, fast breathing, or breath that smells like fruit.
  • Signs of liver problems like dark urine, feeling tired, not hungry, upset stomach or stomach pain, light-colored stools, throwing up, or yellow skin or eyes.
  • Signs of low calcium levels like muscle cramps or spasms, numbness and tingling, or seizures.
  • Feeling very tired or weak.
  • A heartbeat that does not feel normal.
  • Blue or gray skin color.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Swelling.
  • Very bad dizziness or passing out.
  • Very bad headache.
  • This medicine may cause eye problems that may lead to loss of eyesight or blindness. Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had eye problems. Call your doctor right away if you have any changes in eyesight.

What are some other side effects of Interferon Alfa-2a?

All drugs may cause side effects. However, many people have no side effects or only have minor side effects. Call your doctor or get medical help if any of these side effects or any other side effects bother you or do not go away:

  • Flu-like signs. These include headache, weakness, fever, shakes, aches, pains, and sweating.
  • Not able to sleep.
  • Not hungry.
  • Upset stomach or throwing up.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Feeling tired or weak.
  • Change in taste.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Hair thinning.
  • Hair loss.
  • Sweating a lot.
  • Muscle or joint pain.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dizziness.

These are not all of the side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, call your doctor. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-332-1088. You may also report side effects at https://www.fda.gov/medwatch.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

How do I store and/or throw out Interferon Alfa-2a?

  • Store in a refrigerator. Do not freeze.
  • Protect from light.
  • Keep all drugs in a safe place. Keep all drugs out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Throw away unused or expired drugs. Do not flush down a toilet or pour down a drain unless you are told to do so. Check with your pharmacist if you have questions about the best way to throw out drugs. There may be drug take-back programs in your area.

Consumer information use

  • If your symptoms or health problems do not get better or if they become worse, call your doctor.
  • Do not share your drugs with others and do not take anyone else's drugs.
  • Some drugs may have another patient information leaflet. Check with your pharmacist. If you have any questions about interferon alfa-2a, please talk with your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • If you think there has been an overdose, call your poison control center or get medical care right away. Be ready to tell or show what was taken, how much, and when it happened.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.