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While most people have no problems when taking epoetin alfa, side effects can include nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and headache. Certain side effects, while occurring infrequently, are potentially serious and should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately. These side effects of epoetin alfa include signs of congestive heart failure; heart attack, stroke, or blood clots; an irregular heart rhythm; or an allergic reaction.

Side Effects of Epoetin Alfa: An Introduction

As with any medicine, side effects are possible with epoetin alfa (Epogen®, Procrit®); however, not everyone who takes the drug will experience side effects. In fact, most people tolerate it quite well. If side effects do occur, in most cases, they are minor and either require no treatment or can easily be treated by you or your healthcare provider.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with epoetin alfa. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list of epoetin alfa side effects with you.)

Serious Side Effects of Epoetin Alfa

Some side effects with epoetin alfa, while occurring infrequently, are potentially serious and should be reported immediately to your healthcare provider. These include but are not limited to:
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Signs of congestive heart failure (CHF), such as difficulty breathing, swelling or water weight gain, or cough
  • An irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or a sudden loss in heart function (cardiac arrest)
  • Heart attack, stroke, or blood clots
  • Increased growth of cancers
  • Seizures
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, including unexplained rash, hives, itching, and unexplained swelling.
Serious epoetin alfa side effects seem to be more common if treatment is too aggressive. The drug should be given with a specific target for hemoglobin levels (a measure of anemia) in mind. The target hemoglobin level is 12 g/dL, and the target should be achieved gradually. If a higher hemoglobin target is used (or if hemoglobin is raised too quickly), serious side effects are more likely.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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