More Details on Epoetin Alfa Indications

Why Is Epoetin Alfa Used for Anemia?

Just as there are many different anemia types, there are also several different causes of anemia. Chemotherapy can cause anemia (see Chemotherapy and Anemia). In fact, anemia is one of the most common chemotherapy side effects. Epoetin alfa is approved to treat anemia due to chemotherapy in people with non-myeloid cancers. Non-myeloid cancer is basically any cancer that does not involve myeloid cells (a certain type of white blood cell).
Anemia can also be caused by chronic kidney failure. The kidneys produce erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates the production of red blood cells. However, in chronic kidney failure, the kidneys do not produce enough erythropoietin, which leads to anemia. Epoetin alfa is approved to treat anemia in people with chronic kidney failure, whether or not they are on dialysis.
Many medications can cause anemia, too. One of these medications is zidovudine, a prescription medicine used to treat HIV and AIDS. Epoetin alfa is approved to treat anemia due to zidovudine use only. It is not approved to treat anemia due to other causes in people with HIV.
Epoetin alfa is also approved to prevent the need for blood transfusions in people with anemia who need to have surgery. Specifically, it is approved in people scheduled for elective (optional) surgery not involving the heart or blood vessels.

How Does Epoetin Alfa Work?

Epoetin alfa belongs to a group of medications known as erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs). It is a manufactured version of erythropoietin, a human protein that is produced in the kidneys. Epoetin alfa works by stimulating the production of red blood cells by the bone marrow.

Is Epoetin Alfa Used in Children?

Epoetin alfa has been studied in children with anemia due to chronic kidney failure (in children on dialysis as young as one month old and in children not on dialysis as young as three months old). It has also been studied in children with HIV as young as eight months old with anemia due to zidovudine use, as well as in children undergoing chemotherapy as young as five years old. Talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits and risks of using epoetin alfa in children.
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