Procrit-Epoetin alfa

Patient Education Quick Reference Guide Diablo Valley Oncology/Hematology Medical Group Phone Number: 925-677-5041


Your treatment is called epoetin (e-POE-eh-tin), or Procrit® (PRO-crit) or Epogen® (E-poe-jen). It is commonly used to treat anemia, a condition that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells (RBCs). Anemia can occur as a side effect of chemotherapy treatment or zidovudine (AZT) treatment. Anemia can also occur as a side effect of advanced kidney disease. Epoetin works by causing your bone marrow to make more red blood cells, which can prevent the need for blood transfusions and lessen the symptoms of anemia including tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath.

What Do I Need to Know Before Starting Treatment?

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any prescription or over-the-counter products you are taking, including dietary supplements, vitamins, herbal medicines and homeopathic remedies. Use an effective birth control method while you are taking this medication. It is not known whether epoetin can cause harm to a fetus, so be sure to tell your healthcare provider right away if you or your partner become pregnant. Avoid breastfeeding during treatment. It is not known if epoetin passes into breast milk.

What Do I Need to Know Before Starting Epoetin?

While you are being treated with epoetin, your health care provider will check your red blood cell count to make sure the epoetin is working effectively. If your red blood cell count (called your hemoglobin or hematocrit) gets too high, you may be at an increased risk for serious side effects including heart attack, stroke and heart failure. In cancer patients, very high red blood cell counts have been linked to tumor growth. Your healthcare provider will check your hemoglobin and hematocrit regularly to know if it is necessary to stop or adjust your treatment. Epoetin may increase your blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, be sure to tell your healthcare provider. Epoetin can increase the risk of blood clots in your legs or lungs. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you develop pain or swelling in your legs or if you have sudden shortness of breath or chest pain. Epoetin may cause seizures. If you have a history of seizures, tell your healthcare provider. Epoetin can cause an allergic reaction. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have redness, swelling or itching at the site of the injection, skin rash or hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse or sweating. You should not take this treatment if you have high blood pressure that is not controlled by medicine or if you are allergic to albumin, epoetin, darbepoetin or any components of these drugs.

How Is the Treatment Given?

Epoetin is usually given by injection under the skin or into a vein. Your dose and treatment schedule will depend on your diagnosis and your response to epoetin. Your healthcare provider will determine your dose and the number of treatments you receive. If you are injecting epoetin at home, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Epoetin should be stored in the refrigerator at 36° to 46°F (2° to 8°C). Do not freeze or shake the vial and keep it out of direct sunlight. Do NOT use any epoetin vial if the drug is expired or if you notice any discoloration or free-floating particles in the solution. If you are given any medicine to take at home, do not share it with others. Sharing this medication with anyone else could be harmful.

What Are the Possible Side Effects?

All drugs can cause side effects, but every person reacts differently to each drug. The following chart lists the possible side effects that can occur with your treatment, how to recognize and minimize symptoms and possible treatments. The side effects are grouped by how often the side effect occurs: Common (occurs in more than 25 percent of patients), Less Common (occurs in 5 to 25 percent of patients) or Rare (occurs in less than 5 percent of patients).  
Side Effect How to Minimize Side Effect Possible Treatments
Nausea/Vomiting (Less Common)
  • Feeling queasy or sick to your stomach
  • Eat small, frequent meals and bland foods—such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
  • Eat food cold or at room temperature so the smell of food will not bother you.
  • Avoid fried, spicy or fatty foods.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Drink plenty of liquids during the day, but to avoid bloating, drink small amounts of liquid during meals.
  • You may be given medicine to help  reduce nausea and vomiting.
Constipation (Less Common)
  • Difficulty in passing stools
  • Decrease in the normal frequency of bowel movements
  • Small, hard dry stools
  • Bloating, gas, cramps and pain
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen your bowels. Drink warm or hot liquids if you do not have mouth sores.
  • Your healthcare provider may suggest eating foods that are high in fiber, such as bran, vegetables, whole wheat breads and fruit. Try prunes or prune juice, which act like laxatives.
  • Exercise can help loosen bowels.
  • Your healthcare provider may recommend a stool softener.
Diarrhea (Less Common)
  • Loose or watery stools several times a day
  • Abdominal cramping, gas and bloating
  • Eat small, frequent meals and bland foods—such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
  • Avoid caffeine; alcohol; raw fruits and vegetables; raw eggs; undercooked meats; spicy, fatty and greasy foods; milk and dairy products; foods that cause gas, such as beans and other legumes; high fiber and high-fat foods; foods left un- refrigerated for more than two hours (one hour for egg dishes and cream or mayonnaise-based foods); bulk laxatives; and stool softeners.
  • Drink eight to ten glasses of clear liquids every day.
  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help treat diarrhea.

What Are The Other Possible Side Effects?

The following chart lists additional side effects found with this treatment. It does not list all possible side effects. For more information, talk with your healthcare provider.

Common Side Effects

  • Fever

Less Common Side Effects

  • Burning or tingling on the skin
  • Skin reaction at the site of injection

Rare Side Effects

  • Dizziness
  • Blood clots (in the legs, lungs, heart or brain)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Allergic reactions