interferon alfa-2b

Pronunciation: IN ter FEAR on AL fa 2b

Brand: Intron A

What is the most important information I should know about interferon alfa-2b?

You should not use interferon alfa-2b if you have autoimmune hepatitis, or severe liver problems from causes other than hepatitis B or C.

Do not use interferon alfa-2b together with ribavirin if you are pregnant, or if you are a man and your sexual partner is pregnant. Prevent pregnancy while using this medicine, and for at least 6 months after you stop using it.

Interferon alfa-2b can cause life-threatening infections, autoimmune disorders, serious mood or behavior problems, or a stroke.

Call your doctor at once if you have: unusual changes in mood or behavior, chest pain, trouble breathing, sudden numbness or weakness, or signs of infection (fever, chills, cough with mucus, or burning when you urinate).

What is interferon alfa-2b?

Interferon alfa-2b is made from human proteins. Interferons help your body's immune system respond to bacteria, viruses, cancer, or other invading substances.

Interferon alfa-2b is used to treat hairy cell leukemia, malignant melanoma, follicular lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma caused by AIDS, and certain types of genital warts. Interferon alfa-2b is also used to treat chronic hepatitis B or C in adults, and to treat chronic hepatitis B in children who are at least 1 year old.

Interferon alfa-2b may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before using interferon alfa-2b?

You should not use interferon alfa-2b if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • autoimmune hepatitis, or severe liver problems from causes other than hepatitis B or C.

You should not use the combination of interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin if you have:

  • severe kidney disease;
  • a blood cell disorder such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia;
  • an allergy to interferons or ribavirin;
  • if you are pregnant; or
  • if you are a man and your sexual partner is pregnant.

To make sure interferon alfa-2b is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • cirrhosis or liver problems other than hepatitis;
  • a history of depression, mental illness, addiction to drugs or alcohol, or thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else;
  • heart disease, high blood pressure, or a history of heart attack, blood clot, or stroke;
  • a history of low blood cell counts;
  • asthma or other breathing disorder;
  • diabetes, or a thyroid disorder;
  • a weak immune system;
  • colitis or other intestinal disorder;
  • kidney disease; or
  • if you have recently received an organ transplant.

This medicine can harm an unborn baby or cause a miscarriage. Do not use interferon alfa-2b if you are pregnant, especially if you also take ribavirin (Rebetol). The combination of these medicines can cause birth defects. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant during treatment. Use 2 forms of effective birth control while you are using this drug combination and for at least 6 months after your treatment ends.

If a man fathers a child while using interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin, the baby may have birth defects. Use a condom to prevent pregnancy during your treatment. Continue using condoms for at least 6 months after you stop using this drug combination.

It is not known whether interferon alfa-2b passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while using this medicine.

Interferon alfa-2b with ribavirin can affect growth in children. Talk with your doctor if you think your child is not growing at a normal rate while using this medicine.

The powder form of interferon alfa-2b is made from human plasma (part of the blood) which may contain viruses and other infectious agents. Donated plasma is tested and treated to reduce the risk of it containing infectious agents, but there is still a small possibility it could transmit disease. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of using this medication.

How is interferon alfa-2b given?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not use this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. If your doctor changes your brand, strength, or type of interferon, your dosage needs may change. Do not change your doses or medication schedule without your doctor's advice.

Interferon alfa-2b is given as an injection into a muscle, under the skin, or directly into a genital wart. The medicine may also be given through a needle placed into a vein. You may be shown how to use the medicine at home. Do not give yourself this medicine if you do not understand how to use the injection and properly dispose of needles, IV tubing, and other items used.

The powder form of interferon alfa-2b must be mixed with a liquid (diluent) before using it. If you are using the injections at home, be sure you understand how to properly mix and store the medicine. Do not shake the medication bottle. Do not use if the medicine has changed colors or has particles in it. Call your pharmacist for new medicine.

Use a disposable needle and syringe only once. Follow any state or local laws about throwing away used needles and syringes. Use a puncture-proof "sharps" disposal container (ask your pharmacist where to get one and how to throw it away). Keep this container out of the reach of children and pets.

Interferon alfa-2b can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. This can make it easier for you to bleed from an injury or get sick from being around others who are ill. Your blood may need to be tested often. Your heart, lung, and liver function may also need to be checked.

Store this medicine in the refrigerator. Do not freeze. After mixing the powder with a diluent, store this mixture in the refrigerator and use it within 24 hours.

Each single-use vial (bottle) of this medicine is for one use only. Throw away after one use, even if there is still some medicine left in it after injecting your dose. Throw away any leftover medicine in a multi-dose vial 30 days after the first use.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Use the medicine as soon as you remember the missed dose, then go back to your regular schedule on the day your next dose is due. If several days pass after you miss a dose, call your doctor for instructions. Do not use extra medicine to make up a missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while using interferon alfa-2b?

Using this medicine will not prevent your disease from spreading. Follow your doctor's instructions about how to prevent passing the disease to another person.

Avoid drinking alcohol. It may increase your risk of liver damage.

This medicine may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

What are the possible side effects of interferon alfa-2b?

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives, skin rash with blistering and peeling; anxiety, chest pain, difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • vision changes;
  • severe stomach pain with bloody diarrhea;
  • pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding (nosebleeds, bleeding gums);
  • sudden chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, dry cough, feeling short of breath;
  • depression, irritability, confusion, thoughts about hurting yourself or others, or falling back into a previous pattern of drug addiction;
  • heart attack symptoms --chest pain or pressure, pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder, nausea, sweating;
  • signs of a stroke --sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, slurred speech, problems with balance;
  • new or worsened autoimmune disorders --skin problems, joint pain or swelling, cold feeling or pale appearance in your fingers or toes;
  • signs of infection --fever, chills, body aches, cough with yellow or pink mucus, pain or burning when you urinate;
  • liver problems --stomach pain or swelling, loss of appetite, severe drowsiness, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • pancreas problems --severe pain in your upper stomach spreading to your back, vomiting;
  • thyroid problems --weight changes, skin changes, feeling hot or cold all the time; or
  • high blood sugar --increased thirst or urination, hunger, fruity breath odor, tiredness, weight loss.

Your cancer treatments may be delayed or permanently discontinued if you have certain side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • flu-like symptoms, feeling tired;
  • nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss;
  • thinning hair; or
  • swelling, redness, or itching where an injection was given.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect interferon alfa-2b?

Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any you start or stop using, especially:

  • telbivudine;
  • theophylline; or
  • zidovudine.

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with interferon alfa-2b, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor or can provide more information about interferon alfa-2b.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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