Generic Name: pegaspargase (peg-AS-par-jase)
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on July 16, 2020.
Commonly used brand name(s)
In the U.S.
Pharmacologic Class: Asparaginase (class)
Uses for pegaspargase
Pegaspargase injection is used in combination with other cancer medicines to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer that affects the white blood cells. It is also used to treat ALL in patients who have had serious allergic reactions to L-asparaginase treatments. Pegaspargase belongs to the group of medicines called antineoplastics.
Pegaspargase interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal body cells also may be affected by pegaspargase, other effects may also occur. Some of these effects may be serious and must be reported to your doctor.
Before you begin treatment with pegaspargase, you and your doctor should talk about the benefits as well as the risks of using it.
Pegaspargase is to be given only by or under the direct supervision of your doctor.
Before using pegaspargase
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For pegaspargase, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to pegaspargase or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of pegaspargase injection in children. Safety and efficacy have been established.
Appropriate studies on the relationship of age to the effects of pegaspargase injection have not been performed in the geriatric population. However, no geriatric-specific problems have been documented to date.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication while breastfeeding.
Interactions with medicines
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. Tell your healthcare professional if you are taking any other prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicine.
Interactions with food/tobacco/alcohol
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. Discuss with your healthcare professional the use of your medicine with food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Other medical problems
The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of pegaspargase. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
- Bleeding problems from a previous L-asparaginase treatment, history of or
- Blood clots from a previous L-asparaginase treatment, history of or
- Liver disease, severe or
- Pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas), history of or from a previous L-asparaginase treatment—Should not be used in patients with these conditions.
- Diabetes—Use with caution. May increase risk for more side effects.
Proper use of pegaspargase
A nurse or other trained health professional will give you pegaspargase in a medical facility. It is given as a shot into one of your muscles or through a needle placed into one of your veins. The injection is given every 14 days.
Pegaspargase injection is given together with certain other medicines. If you are using a combination of medicines, it is important that you receive each one at the proper time. If you are taking some of these medicines by mouth, ask your doctor to help you plan a way to take them at the right times.
Precautions while using pegaspargase
It is very important that your doctor check your or your child's progress closely and at regular visits to make sure that pegaspargase is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.
Receiving pegaspargase while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Birth control pills may not work as well to prevent pregnancy when used with pegaspargase. Use another form of birth control (eg, condoms, spermicide) along with your pills during treatment and for at least 3 months after the last dose. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
Pegaspargase may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis or angioedema, which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hoarseness, trouble breathing or swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after using pegaspargase.
Pegaspargase may increase your risk of developing serious blood clots. Tell your doctor right away if you develop any sudden and severe headache, arm or leg swelling, trouble with breath, or chest pain.
Pegaspargase may cause pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas). Check with your doctor right away if you have sudden and severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, or chills during treatment with pegaspargase.
Check with your doctor right away if you start having increased thirst or hunger, increased urination, pale skin, nausea, sweating, or faintness. This may be signs that you are having problems with the amount of blood sugar in your body. .
Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.
Pegaspargase can lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk bleeding:
- Check with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising, black tarry stools, blood in urine or stools, or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
- Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may recommend other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Check with your medical doctor before having any dental work done.
- Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
- Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury can occur.
If pegaspargase accidentally seeps out of the vein into which it is injected, it may damage some tissue and cause scarring. Tell the doctor or nurse right away if you notice redness, pain, or swelling at the injection site.
Pegaspargase side effects
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor or nurse immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Black, tarry stools
- blurry vision
- dark urine
- difficulty breathing
- dry mouth
- fast heartbeat
- flushed, dry skin
- fruit-like breath odor
- hives, itching, skin rash
- increased hunger
- increased thirst
- increased urination
- joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- loss of appetite
- pain in the chest, groin, or legs, especially the calves
- painful or difficult urination
- pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
- redness of the skin
- severe, sudden headache
- skin paleness
- slurred speech
- sore throat
- stomach pain
- sudden loss of coordination
- sudden, severe weakness or numbness in the arm or leg
- swelling of the eyelids, face, lips, hands, or feet
- tightness in the chest
- troubled breathing
- troubled swallowing
- ulcers, sores, or white spots in the mouth
- unexplained weight loss
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
- vision changes
- yellow eyes or skin
Incidence not known
- Continuing nausea or vomiting
- increase in the frequency of seizures
- light-colored stools
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Frequently asked questions
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
More about pegaspargase
- Side Effects
- During Pregnancy
- Dosage Information
- Drug Interactions
- En Español
- Drug class: miscellaneous antineoplastics
Other brands: Oncaspar