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Interferon (Roferon-A®)

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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  • Interferon alfa-2A is a human recombinant drug made from genetically engineered cultures of bacteria containing genes from human white blood cells. The effects of this drug are complex and widespread.
  • Interferon has been found to have antiviral and anticancer effects as well as having ability to manipulate the immune system. The drug seems to affect the DNA and proteins of various cells.
  • The mechanism of action of this drug is not fully understood and it is presently given to animals on an experimental basis only. The safety and effectiveness of interferon has yet not been established in animals.
  • The high cost of interferon limits its use in humans.
  • Interferon is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.
  • This drug is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in animals but veterinarians may prescribe it legally as an extra-label drug.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Roferon-A® (Roche)
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Interferon

  • The primary use of interferon in veterinary medicine has been as a supplement in the treatment of the non-cancerous feline leukemia disease.
  • Interferon is also used on an investigational basis in the treatment of various cancers and viral infections in dogs and cats.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, interferon may cause side effects in some animals.
  • Interferon should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • This drug should also be avoided in animals with preexisting autoimmune disease, severe heart disease, lung disease, herpes virus, or neurologic disorders.
  • Little is known about the safety of interferon. It has been shown to lower blood platelet counts and may cause anemia.
  • This drug may also promote liver damage and nervous system damage.
  • Interferon may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving might interact with interferon. Such drugs include other antiviral medications.
  • The most common side effects associated with interferon are loss of appetite and vomiting.

    How Interferon is Supplied

  • Interferon is available in 3 million IU/ml, 6 million IU/ml and 36 million IU/ml concentrations.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • Interferon is available as an injectable drug but it is administered orally to animals.
  • For dogs, interferon is dosed at 1 IU/10 pounds (1 IU/5 kg) orally every other week.
  • Cats are given 30 IU of interferon per cat orally once daily for 7 days. They are then taken off the medicine for 7 days, to have the medicine reinstated again (same dose) once daily for 7 days. This cycle is then repeated for as long as the cat is to be kept on medication.
  • An alternative dosing scheme for cats is to give 0.25 to 2.5 mg per pound (0.5 to 5 mg/kg) once daily.
  • The duration of administration of interferon depends on the condition being treated, the response to the medication, and the development of any adverse effects.

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