Epogen is a man-made form of the protein erythropoietin, which assists the body in producing red blood cells. When a patient suffers from kidney failure or has some other condition that reduces the amount of red blood cells in the body, the patient can become anemic. Epogen has been prescribed to people with kidney failure and patients who have become anemic from HIV treatments or chemotherapy. Epogen is manufactured and marketed by Amgen, Inc., and it was approved by the FDA in 1999.

Researchers have found evidence that erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs) such as Epogen, Aranesp and Procrit, may make a patient’s condition worse, rather than improving anemia. The use of these drugs has been linked to severe anemia and pure red cell aplasia (PRCA).

When a patient contracts PRCA, the white blood cells can attack the body’s own bone marrow, which can cause other severe health conditions.

In 2011, the FDA warned that doctors should be more conservative in their prescribing of Epogen and other drugs. Other risks that are increased while taking ESAs are stroke, thrombosis, blood clots, heart attacks and even death.

It was also found that when used in patients with breast, head and neck cancer that Epogen may actually accelerate the cancer’s progression. After this study, the FDA required Amgen Inc. to warn the public about these risks. It was recommended that Epogen not be used in those types of cancer patients.

Serious side effects may include:

  • Chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling
  • Feeling short of breath, even with mild exertion
  • Swelling, rapid weight gain
  • Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance
  • Pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs
  • Feeling light-headed, fainting
  • Fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, sores in your mouth and throat
  • Pale skin, feeling short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating
  • Easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin
  • Seizure (black-out or convulsions)
  • Low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling)
  • Dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure)

Less serious Epogen side effects may include:

  • Cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat
  • Joint pain, bone pain
  • Muscle pain, muscle spasm
  • Dizziness, depression, mild headache
  • Weight loss
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Nausea, vomiting, trouble swallowing
  • Pain or tenderness at the site of injection
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