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Photofrin

Generic Name: porfimer (POR fi mer)
Brand Name: Photofrin

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Jul 31, 2020 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is Photofrin?

Photofrin is used together with "photodynamic" laser light therapy to reduce the size of tumors in the lungs or esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and stomach).

Photofrin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not receive Photofrin if you have porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system), esophageal bleeding, a fistula (abnormal passageway) in the throat or esophagus, or a tumor that affects a large blood vessel.

Before taking this medicine

You should not receive Photofrin if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system);

  • a fistula (abnormal passageway) in the throat or esophagus;

  • esophageal bleeding; or

  • a tumor that affects a large blood vessel.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • heart disease;

  • liver or kidney disease;

  • late-stage cancer;

  • a stroke or blood clot; or

  • if you are receiving radiation treatment.

You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment.

Both men and women using this medicine should use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy. Photofrin can harm an unborn baby if the mother or father is using this medicine.

Keep using birth control for at least 5 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is using Photofrin.

Do not breastfeed while using this medicine, and for at least 5 months after your last dose.

How is Photofrin given?

Photofrin is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when Photofrin is injected.

You will receive laser light treatment within 40 to 50 hours after your Photofrin infusion. A second laser light treatment may be given within 96 to 120 hours after your infusion.

Photofrin will make your skin and eyes more sensitive to sunlight. For at least 30 days after you are treated with this medicine, you must protect your eyes and skin from natural sunlight and bright indoor lights (such as lights in a doctor's office, operating room lamps, tanning beds, bright halogen lights, or unshaded light bulbs).

Keep all parts of your skin covered with clothing and wear dark sunglasses when you are outdoors. Sunscreen will not protect you from severe sunburn during the 30-day period after your treatment with Photofrin.

Your sensitivity to light may last for up to 90 days or longer. Ask your doctor to determine if your skin is still sensitive to sunlight.

  • Expose a small area of skin to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for about 10 minutes.

  • Do not use the skin on your face or around your eyes to test for light sensitivity.

  • If the exposed skin develops redness, swelling, or blistering within 24 hours, wait another 2 weeks before testing again.

  • Test your skin again if your sunlight exposure will increase due to travel or relocation within 90 days after you receive Photofrin.

Exposure to sunlight shining through a window is not as harmful and can help your body eliminate Photofrin. Follow your doctor's instructions about the best amount of light exposure.

You may need frequent medical tests or a biopsy every 3 months.

If you need major surgery or will be on long-term bed rest, you may need to stop using Photofrin for a short time. Any doctor or surgeon who treats you should know that you are being treated with Photofrin.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your laser light therapy. The timing between your Photofrin and your light therapy is important for the treatment to be effective.

What happens if I overdose?

Since this medication is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid after receiving Photofrin?

Avoid exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights for at least 90 days after you are treated with Photofrin.

Photofrin may cause your eyes to be more sensitive to oncoming headlights while you are driving. Avoid driving at night until this effect wears off.

Photofrin side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fever, chills, chest pain;

  • if you feel very thirsty or hot, are unable to urinate, and have heavy sweating or hot and dry skin;

  • low red blood cells (anemia)--pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet;

  • fluid build-up in or around the lungs--pain when you breathe, feeling short of breath while lying down, wheezing, gasping for breath, cough with foamy mucus, cold and clammy skin, anxiety, rapid heartbeats;

  • signs of stomach bleeding--bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; or

  • signs of a stroke--sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, slurred speech, problems with vision or balance.

Common side effects may include:

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Photofrin?

Photofrin can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. This effect may be increased when you also use certain other medicines, including: antibiotics, heart or blood pressure medication, certain anti-psychotic medication, or medicine to control severe nausea and vomiting.

Other drugs may affect Photofrin, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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