Aranesp, which is known generically as darbepoetin alfa, is approved to treat anemia in patients going through chemotherapy or dialysis. These two treatments have been known to cause damage to red blood cells, thus causing anemia. Anemia is a condition where the blood lacks healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen to organs. Aranesp was approved by the FDA in 2001. It is manufactured by Amgen Inc., and is used extensively throughout the US.
The drug is a man-made form of a protein the body that facilitates red blood cell production. The amount of this protein in the body may decrease when a kidney fails or after the use of certain medications. When fewer red blood cells are produced, anemia can occur.
Aranesp has been linked to other conditions as well, such as pure red cell aplasia (PRCA)—a condition in which the body’s white blood cells begin to attack its own bone marrow.
A new label has been put on Aranesp, warning patients and physicians to weigh the benefits of the drug with the dangerous side effects it may cause.
Side effects may include:
- Chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling
- Feeling short of breath, even with mild exertion
- Swelling, rapid weight gain
- Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- Sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance; or
- Pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs
- Fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms
- Feeling faint
- Easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin
- Seizure (black-out or convulsions); or
- Dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure)
- Stomach pain
- Mild cough
- Mild skin rash or redness
- Pain, bruising, swelling, warmth, redness, oozing, or bleeding where the IV needle is placed