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Erythropoietin (Epogen®, Procrit®)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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  • Erythropoietin is a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone normally produced in the kidney.
  • Erythropoietin stimulates the production of red blood cells (red corpuscles).
  • Deficiency of erythropoietin leads to anemia, an insufficient number of red blood cells. This most often occurs with kidney disease.
  • Erythropoietin is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.
  • This drug is not approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Epogen® (Amgen), Procrit® (Ortho Biotech) and various generics.
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Erythropoietin

  • The primary use of erythropoietin is to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney failure.
  • Iron is frequently supplemented while an animal is under treatment with erythropoietin.
  • If the pet becomes more anemic during treatment, an immunity-related resistance should be considered and the drug discontinued.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, erythropoietin can cause side effects in some animals.
  • Erythropoietin should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Erythropoietin should not be used in animals with uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • Erythropoietin may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with erythropoietin.
  • With continued use, erythropoietin may become ineffective. In some animals, the immune system may react against the drug, making the body resistant to the beneficial effect of the drug.

    How Erythropoietin Is Supplied

  • Erythropoietin is supplied in injectable form only.
  • It is available in 2,000 units, 3,000 units, 4,000 units, 10,000 units and 20,000 units/ml vials.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • The initial dose of erythropoietin typically is 50 - 100 units per kg three times per week. This is continued for several weeks.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Even if your pet feels better, the entire treatment plan should be completed to prevent relapse or prevent the development of resistance.

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