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Procrit - Epoetin Alfa – Drug To Boost Red Blood Cell Production


Updated April 28, 2014


Procrit (epoetin alfa) is a drug given to patients who have chemotherapy-induced anemia (low red blood cell count). An injection of Procrit stimulates red blood cell production. It is a clear liquid that can be given through an intravenous infusion (IV), or as a shot. It is also known as Epogen.

Use During Treatment for Breast Cancer:

Chemotherapy for breast cancer affects all the rapidly dividing cells in your body, including bone marrow cells, which produce white and red blood cells as well as platelets. If your CBC shows that your red blood cell count is low, you may be anemic. An injection of Procrit can boost your red blood cell production, and help you avoid the possible need for a blood transfusion.

How Procrit Works:

Blood is made in your bone marrow, the soft, spongy tissue in the core of your bones. Bone marrow cells are fast-dividing cells, which are affected by chemotherapy. Fewer bone marrow cells means less blood cells. Your CBC may reveal that your red blood counts are low, and you are anemic. Usually, your kidneys produce erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates the production of red blood cells. But during chemo for breast cancer, your kidneys may not make enough erythropoietin. Procrit is a man-made substitute for erythropoietin, and the proper dose of this drug will boost production of your red blood cells.

How Procrit is Given:

You may be given shots of Procrit three times weekly (150 Units/kg SC), or once weekly (40,000 Units/kg SC). Breast cancer patients usually receive Procrit as an injection in the arm or thigh.

Some Common Side Effects:

Procrit is a very safe drug, and most patients do not experience side effects. Some patients may develop a fever. You have a less than 22% chance of having these reactions:
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fluid retention (edema)
  • fatigue

Call Your Doctor if You Have These Symptoms:

  • allergic reaction (hives, problems breathing, swelling of face, lips, tongue or throat)
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden feeling of numbness or weakness (especially asymmetrical)
  • pain or swelling in your legs, feet, or ankles
  • high blood pressure
  • light-headedness (dizzy, faint)

Possible Risks of Using Procrit:

If you are being treated for metastatic breast cancer, there is a 1.1% chance that Procrit may cause serious blood clots. It may shorten chances of survival for metastatic breast cancer patients, if an overdose is given. More deaths have been noted when a larger than necessary injection of erythropoietin growth factor is given.

Do Not Take If:

  • you have high blood pressure (hypertension) that is not controlled by medication
  • you are allergic to epoetin alfa (Procrit), or darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp)
  • you are hypersensitive to human albumin

Recommentations During Treatment:

Before your first injection of Procrit, your doctor will order a CBC to get the levels of your red blood cells, hemoglobin, platelets, and iron or folate. As treatment progresses, you will have more blood tests to check the effectiveness of Procrit, and to be sure you are getting the right dose.
If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, discuss this with your doctor before taking Procrit. There have not been enough studies done to determine the effect of this drug on breast milk or the human fetus.
FDA. Drugs@FDA. Procrit Drug Details. Approved: June 1, 1989.
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