Studies have compared darbepoetin alfa to epoetin alfa (a similar medication) for treating anemia caused by chronic kidney failure. These studies evaluated the efficacy of the medications by measuring the level of hemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells). These studies showed that darbepoetin alfa once weekly produced similar results as epoetin twice weekly. However, darbepoetin alfa once weekly seemed to be slightly less effective than epoetin alfa three times a week.
Darbepoetin alfa has also been studied for treating anemia caused by chemotherapy in people with cancer. In one study, the efficacy of the drug was evaluated by measuring the percent of people who needed a blood transfusion to treat anemia. In this study, only 26 percent of people taking it needed a blood transfusion, compared to 60 percent of those not taking the medication.
General considerations for when and how to take this medicine include the following:
- Darbepoetin alfa comes as an injection that is given under the skin (subcutaneously) or by IV infusion.
- It is usually given once a week, once every two weeks, or once every three weeks, depending on several factors.
- In some situations, you may be able to give yourself darbepoetin alfa injections (under the skin, not by IV) at home. In this situation, your healthcare provider should teach you exactly how to give yourself the injections.
- Never shake darbepoetin alfa, as it is a delicate molecule that could be damaged by shaking.
- You will need regular blood tests while taking this drug to see how well it is working.
- It is very important that your body has enough iron; otherwise darbepoetin alfa cannot work well. Your healthcare provider may recommend iron supplements in some situations.
- For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed.