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What Is Darbepoetin Alfa Used For?

Darbepoetin alfa is used for treating anemia in people with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy; it is also used in people who have chronic kidney failure. While the drug can be used in children with chronic kidney failure as young as one year of age, it is not approved to treat anemia caused by chemotherapy in children. At this time, there are no universally accepted off-label darbepoetin alfa uses.

Darbepoetin Alfa Uses: An Overview

Darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp®) is a prescription injection used to help treat anemia caused by chronic kidney failure or by chemotherapy for cancer. It belongs to a group of medications known as erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs).
Anemia is a blood condition in which there is an abnormally low number of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen (O2) to tissues and organs throughout your body and enable them to use the energy from food. Without oxygen, these tissues and organs -- particularly the heart and brain -- may not do their jobs as well as they should. Therefore, if you have anemia, you may tire easily and appear pale. Anemia may also contribute to heart problems. General anemia symptoms include:
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Not doing well in work or school
  • Low body temperature
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Numbness or coldness in your hands and feet
  • Headache.
There are many different anemia types, as well as several different causes of anemia. Anemia can be caused by chemotherapy (see Chemotherapy and Anemia). In fact, anemia is one of the most common chemotherapy side effects. Darbepoetin alfa is approved to treat anemia due to chemotherapy in people with non-myeloid cancers. Non-myeloid cancer is basically any cancer that does not involve myeloid cells (a certain type of white blood cell).
Anemia can also be caused by chronic kidney failure. The kidneys produce erythropoietin, a protein that stimulates the production of red blood cells. However, with chronic kidney failure, the kidneys do not produce enough erythropoietin, which leads to anemia. Darbepoetin alfa is approved to treat anemia in people with chronic kidney failure, regardless of whether they are on dialysis.
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Drug Information -- Darbepoetin Alfa

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