Drug: Aranesp

Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) is an erythropoiesis-stimulating protein that is produced in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells by recombinant DNA technology. Aranesp is a 165-amino acid protein that differs from recombinant human erythropoietin in containing 5 N-linked oligosaccharide chains, whereas recombinant human erythropoietin contains 3 chains. The 2 additional N-glycosylation sites result from amino acid substitutions in the erythropoietin peptide backbone. The approximate molecular weight of darbepoetin alfa is 37,000 daltons. Aranesp is formulated as a sterile, colorless, preservative-free solution containing polysorbate for intravenous or subcutaneous administration. Each 1 mL contains polysorbate 80 (0.05 mg), sodium chloride (8.18 mg), sodium phosphate dibasic anhydrous (0.66 mg), and sodium phosphate monobasic monohydrate (2.12 mg) in Water for Injection, USP (pH 6.2 ± 0.2).

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The following serious adverse reactions are discussed in greater detail in other sections of the label:
  • Increased Mortality, Myocardial Infarction, Stroke, and Thromboembolism [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Increased mortality and/or increased risk of tumor progression or recurrence in Patients With Cancer [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Hypertension [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Seizures [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • PRCA [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Serious allergic reactions [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Clinical Trial Experience Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of other drugs and may not reflect the rates observed in practice. Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease Adult Patients Adverse reactions were determined based on pooled data from 5 randomized, active-controlled studies of Aranesp with a total of 1357 patients (Aranesp 766, epoetin alfa 591). The median duration of exposure for patients receiving Aranesp was 340 days, with 580 patients exposed for greater than 6 months and 360 patients exposed for greater than 1 year. The median (25th, 75th percentiles) weight-adjusted dose of Aranesp was 0.50 mcg/kg (0.32, 0.81). The median (range) age for patients administered Aranesp was 62 years (18 to 88). In the Aranesp group, 55% were male, 72% were white, 83% were receiving dialysis, and 17% were not receiving dialysis. Table 4 lists adverse reactions occurring in ≥ 5% of patients treated with Aranesp. Table 4: Adverse Reactions Occurring in ≥ 5% of Patients with CKD
Adverse Reaction Patients Treated With Aranesp
(n = 766) Hypertension 31% Dyspnea 17% Peripheral edema 17% Cough 12% Procedural hypotension 10% Angina pectoris 8% Vascular access complications 8% Fluid overload 7% Rash/Erythema 5% Arteriovenous graft thrombosis 5% Rates of adverse reactions with Aranesp therapy were similar to those observed with other recombinant erythropoietins in these studies. Pediatric Patients Aranesp was administered to 81 pediatric patients with CKD who had stable hemoglobin concentrations while previously receiving epoetin alfa [see Clinical Studies]. In this study, the most frequently reported serious adverse reactions with Aranesp were hypertension and convulsions. The most commonly reported adverse reactions were hypertension, injection site pain, rash, and convulsions. Aranesp administration was discontinued because of injection site pain in 2 patients and moderate hypertension in a third patient. Studies have not evaluated the effects of Aranesp when administered to pediatric patients as the initial treatment for the anemia associated with CKD. Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy Adverse reactions were based on data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of Aranesp in 597 patients (Aranesp 301, placebo 296) with extensive stage small cell lung cancer (SCLC) receiving platinum-based chemotherapy. All patients were white, 64% were male, and the median age was 61 years (range: 28 to 82 years); 25% of the study population were from North America, Western Europe, and Australia. Patients received Aranesp at a dose of 300 mcg or placebo weekly for 4 weeks then every 3 weeks for a total of 24 weeks, and the median duration of exposure was 19 weeks (range: 1 to 26 weeks). Adverse reactions were also based on data from 7 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, including the SCLC study described above, that enrolled 2112 patients (Aranesp 1203, placebo 909) with non-myeloid malignancies. Most patients were white (95%), male (52%), and the median age was 63 years (range: 18 to 91 years); 73% of the study population were from North America, Western Europe, and Australia. Dosing and schedules varied by study from once weekly to once every 4 weeks, and the median duration of exposure was 12 weeks (range: 1 to 27 weeks). Table 5: Thrombovascular Adverse Reactions in Patients Receiving Chemotherapy
Adverse Reaction SCLC Study All Placebo-controlled Studies Aranesp
(n = 301) Placebo
(n = 296) Aranesp
(n = 1203) Placebo
(n = 909) Thromboembolic Adverse Reactions, n (%) 24 (8.0%) 13 (4.4%) 73 (6.1%) 37 (4.1%)   Arterial 10 (3.3%) 3 (1.0%) 15 (1.2%) 5 (0.6%)      Myocardial infarction 5 (1.7%) 0 7 (0.6%) 2 (0.2%)   Venous 14 (4.7%) 10 (3.4%) 60 (5.0%) 32 (3.5%)      Pulmonary embolism 5 (1.7%) 3 (1.0%) 16 (1.3%) 6 (0.7%)   Cerebrovascular disorders* 14 (4.7%) 9(3.0%) 20 (1.7%) 17 (1.9%) * “Cerebrovascular disorders” encompasses CNS hemorrhages and cerebrovascular accidents (ischemic and hemorrhagic). Events in this category may also be included under “thromboembolic adverse reactions.” In addition to the thrombovascular adverse reactions, abdominal pain and edema occurred at a higher incidence in patients taking Aranesp compared to patients on placebo. Among all placebo-controlled studies, abdominal pain (13.2% vs. 9.4%) and edema (12.8% vs. 9.7%) were reported more frequently in patients receiving Aranesp compared to the placebo group. In the SCLC study the incidence of abdominal pain (10.3% vs. 3.4%) and edema (5.6% vs. 5.1%) in the Aranesp-treated patients compared to those receiving placebo. Postmarketing Experience Because postmarketing reporting of adverse reactions is voluntary and from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure. The following adverse reactions have been identified during postmarketing use of Aranesp:
  • Seizures [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • PRCA [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
  • Serious allergic reactions [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Immunogenicity As with all therapeutic proteins, there is a potential for immunogenicity. Neutralizing antibodies to darbepoetin alfa that cross-react with endogenous erythropoietin and other ESAs can result in PRCA or severe anemia (with or without other cytopenias) [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. In clinical studies, the percentage of patients with antibodies to Aranesp was examined using the Biacore® assay. Sera from 1501 patients with CKD and 1159 cancer patients were tested. At baseline, prior to Aranesp treatment, binding antibodies were detected in 59 patients (4%) with CKD and 36 cancer patients (3%). During Aranesp therapy (range: 22 to 177 weeks), a follow-up sample was taken. One additional patient with CKD and 8 additional cancer patients developed antibodies capable of binding Aranesp. None of the patients had antibodies capable of neutralizing the activity of Aranesp or endogenous erythropoietin at baseline or at end of study. No clinical sequelae consistent with PRCA were associated with the presence of these antibodies. The incidence of antibody formation is highly dependent on the sensitivity and specificity of the assay. Additionally, the observed incidence of antibody (including neutralizing antibody) positivity in an assay may be influenced by several factors, including assay methodology, sample handling, timing of sample collection, concomitant medications, and underlying disease. For these reasons, comparison of the incidence of antibodies to Aranesp with the incidence of antibodies to other products may be misleading. Read the Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effectsLearn More »

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Evaluation Of Iron Stores And Nutritional Factors Evaluate the iron status in all patients before and during treatment and maintain iron repletion. Correct or exclude other causes of anemia (e.g., vitamin deficiency, metabolic or chronic inflammatory conditions, bleeding, etc.) before initiating Aranesp [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease In controlled trials, patients experienced greater risks for death, serious adverse cardiovascular reactions, and stroke when administered erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) to target a hemoglobin level of greater than 11 g/dL. No trial has identified a hemoglobin target level, Aranesp dose, or dosing strategy that does not increase these risks. Individualize dosing and use the lowest dose of Aranesp sufficient to reduce the need for RBC transfusions [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Physicians and patients should weigh the possible benefits of decreasing transfusions against the increased risks of death and other serious cardiovascular adverse events [see BOXED WARNING and Clinical Studies]. For all patients with CKD When initiating or adjusting therapy, monitor hemoglobin levels at least weekly until stable, then monitor at least monthly. When adjusting therapy consider hemoglobin rate of rise, rate of decline, ESA responsiveness and hemoglobin variability. A single hemoglobin excursion may not require a dosing change.
  • Do not increase the dose more frequently than once every 4 weeks. Decreases in dose can occur more frequently. Avoid frequent dose adjustments.
  • If the hemoglobin rises rapidly (e.g., more than 1 g/dL in any 2-week period), reduce the dose of Aranesp by 25% or more as needed to reduce rapid responses.
  • For patients who do not respond adequately, if the hemoglobin has not increased by more than 1 g/dL after 4 weeks of therapy, increase the dose by 25%.
  • For patients who do not respond adequately over a 12-week escalation period, increasing the Aranesp dose further is unlikely to improve response and may increase risks. Use the lowest dose that will maintain a hemoglobin level sufficient to reduce the need for RBC transfusions. Evaluate other causes of anemia. Discontinue Aranesp if responsiveness does not improve.
For patients with CKD on dialysis
  • Initiate Aranesp treatment when the hemoglobin level is less than 10 g/dL.
  • If the hemoglobin level approaches or exceeds 11 g/dL, reduce or interrupt the dose of Aranesp.
  • The recommended starting dose is 0.45 mcg/kg intravenously or subcutaneously as a weekly injection or 0.75 mcg/kg once every 2 weeks as appropriate. The intravenous route is recommended for patients on hemodialysis.
For patients with CKD not on dialysis
  • Consider initiating Aranesp treatment only when the hemoglobin level is less than 10 g/dL and the following considerations apply:
    • The rate of hemoglobin decline indicates the likelihood of requiring a RBC transfusion and,
    • Reducing the risk of alloimmunization and/or other RBC transfusion-related risks is a goal.
  • If the hemoglobin level exceeds 10 g/dL, reduce or interrupt the dose of Aranesp, and use the lowest dose of Aranesp sufficient to reduce the need for RBC transfusions.
  • The recommended starting dose is 0.45 mcg/kg body weight intravenously or subcutaneously given once at four week intervals as appropriate.
When treating patients who have chronic kidney disease and cancer, physicians should refer to WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS. Refer patients who self-administer Aranesp to the Instructions for Use [see PATIENT INFORMATION]. Conversion from Epoetin alfa to Aranesp in patients with CKD on dialysis Aranesp is administered less frequently than epoetin alfa.
  • Administer Aranesp once weekly in patients who were receiving epoetin alfa 2 to 3 times weekly.
  • Administer Aranesp once every 2 weeks in patients who were receiving epoetin alfa once weekly.
Estimate the starting weekly dose of Aranesp for adults and pediatric patients on the basis of the weekly epoetin alfa dose at the time of substitution (see Table 1). Maintain the route of administration (intravenous or subcutaneous injection). Table 1: Estimated Aranesp Starting Doses (mcg/week) for Patients With CKD on Dialysis Based on Previous Epoetin alfa Dose (Units/week)
Previous Weekly Epoetin alfa Dose (Units/week) Aranesp Dose (mcg/week) Adult Pediatric < 1,500 6.25 * 1,500 to 2,499 6.25 6.25 2,500 to 4,999 12.5 10 5,000 to 10,999 25 20 11,000 to 17,999 40 40 18,000 to 33,999 60 60 34,000 to 89,999 100 100 ≥ 90,000 200 200 *For pediatric patients receiving a weekly epoetin alfa dose of < 1,500 Units/week, the available data are insufficient to determine an Aranesp conversion dose. Conversion from Epoetin alfa to Aranesp in patients with CKD not on dialysis The dose conversion depicted in Table 1 does not accurately estimate the once monthly dose of Aranesp. Patients On Cancer Chemotherapy Initiate Aranesp in patients on cancer chemotherapy only if the hemoglobin is less than 10 g/dL, and if there is a minimum of two additional months of planned chemotherapy. Use the lowest dose of Aranesp necessary to avoid RBC transfusions. Recommended Starting Dose The recommended starting dose and schedules are:
  • 2.25 mcg/kg every week subcutaneously until completion of a chemotherapy course
  • 500 mcg every 3 weeks subcutaneously until completion of a chemotherapy course
Dose Adjustment Dose Adjustment Weekly Schedule Every 3 Week Schedule
  • If hemoglobin increases greater than 1 g/dL in any 2-week period or
  • If hemoglobin reaches a level needed to avoid RBC transfusion
Reduce dose by 40% Reduce dose by 40% If hemoglobin exceeds a level needed to avoid RBC transfusion
  • Withhold dose until hemoglobin approaches a level where RBC transfusions may be required
  • Reinitiate at a dose 40% below the previous dose
  • Withhold dose until hemoglobin approaches a level where RBC transfusions may be required
  • Reinitiate at a dose 40% below the previous dose
If hemoglobin increases by less than 1 g/dL and remains below 10 g/dL after 6 weeks of therapy Increase dose to 4.5 mcg/kg/week No dose adjustment
  • If there is no response as measured by hemoglobin levels or if RBC transfusions are still required after 8 weeks of therapy
  • Following completion of a chemotherapy course
Discontinue Aranesp Discontinue Aranesp Preparation And Administration
  • The needle cover of the prefilled syringe contains dry natural rubber (a derivative of latex), which may cause allergic reactions.
  • Do not shake. Do not use Aranesp that has been shaken or frozen.
  • Protect vials and prefilled syringes from light.
  • Parenteral drug products should be inspected visually for particulate matter and discoloration prior to administration. Do not use any vials or prefilled syringes exhibiting particulate matter or discoloration.
  • Discard unused portion of Aranesp in vials or prefilled syringes. Do not re-enter vial.
  • Do not dilute Aranesp and do not administer in conjunction with other drug solutions.

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No formal drug interaction studies have been conducted with Aranesp. Last reviewed on RxList: 1/27/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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Anemia Due To Chronic Kidney Disease Aranesp is indicated for the treatment of anemia due to chronic kidney disease (CKD), including patients on dialysis and patients not on dialysis. Anemia Due To Chemotherapy In Patients With Cancer Aranesp is indicated for the treatment of anemia in patients with non-myeloid malignancies where anemia is due to the effect of concomitant myelosuppressive chemotherapy, and upon initiation, there is a minimum of two additional months of planned chemotherapy. Limitations Of Use Aranesp has not been shown to improve quality of life, fatigue, or patient well-being. Aranesp is not indicated for use:
  • In patients with cancer receiving hormonal agents, biologic products, or radiotherapy, unless also receiving concomitant myelosuppressive chemotherapy.
  • Inpatients with cancer receiving myelosuppressive chemotherapy when the anticipated outcome is cure.
  • As a substitute for RBC transfusions in patients who require immediate correction of anemia [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].

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Aranesp is contraindicated in patients with:
  • Uncontrolled hypertension [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
  • Pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) that begins after treatment with Aranesp or other erythropoietin protein drugs [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
  • Serious allergic reactions to Aranesp [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Last reviewed on RxList: 1/27/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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Aranesp overdosage can cause hemoglobin levels above the desired level, which should be managed with discontinuation or reduction of Aranesp dosage and/or with phlebotomy, as clinically indicated [see Pharmacodynamics]. Cases of severe hypertension have been observed following overdose with ESAs [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

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Dosage Forms And Strengths Aranesp is available as a polysorbate-containing solution.
  • Single-dose vials: 25, 40, 60, 100, 200, 300, and 500 mcg Aranesp/1 mL, and 150 mcg Aranesp/0.75 mL
  • Single-dose prefilled syringes: 25 mcg Aranesp/0.42 mL, 40 mcg Aranesp/0.4 mL, 60 mcg Aranesp/0.3 mL, 100 mcg Aranesp/0.5 mL, and 150 mcg Aranesp/0.3 mL, 200 mcg Aranesp/0.4 mL, 300 mcg Aranesp/0.6 mL, and 500 mcg Aranesp/1 mL
Storage And Handling Store at 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). Do not freeze. Do not shake. Protect from light; store Aranesp in the carton until use. Do not use Aranesp that has been shaken or frozen. Aranesp is available in the following packages: Single-dose Vial 1 Vial/Pack, 4 Packs/Case 4 Vials/Pack, 10 Packs/Case 200 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-006-01) 25 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-002-04) 300 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-110-01) 40 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-003-04) 60 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-004-04) 100 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-005-04) 150 mcg/0.75 mL
(NDC 55513-053-04) Single-dose Prefilled Syringe (SingleJect®) with a 27-gauge, ½-inch needle with an UltraSafe® Needle Guard that is manually activated to cover the needle during disposal 1 Syringe/Pack, 4 Packs/Case 4 Syringes/Pack, 10 Packs/Case 200 mcg/0.4 mL
(NDC 55513-028-01) 25 mcg/0.42 mL
(NDC 55513-057-04) 300 mcg/0.6 mL
(NDC 55513-111-01) 40 mcg/0.4 mL
(NDC 55513-021-04) 500 mcg/1 mL
(NDC 55513-032-01) 60 mcg/0.3 mL
(NDC 55513-023-04) 100 mcg/0.5 mL
(NDC 55513-025-04) 150 mcg/0.3 mL
(NDC 55513-027-04) Manufactured by: Amgen Inc. One Amgen Center Drive Thousand Oaks, CA 91320-1799 U.S.A. Revised: 12/2013 Last reviewed on RxList: 1/27/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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Increased Mortality, Myocardial Infarction, Stroke, And Thromboembolism
  • In controlled clinical trials of patients with CKD comparing higher hemoglobin targets (13 - 14 g/dL) to lower targets (9 - 11.3 g/dL), Aranesp and other ESAs increased the risk of death, myocardial infarction, stroke, congestive heart failure, thrombosis of hemodialysis vascular access, and other thromboembolic events in the higher target groups.
  • Using Aranesp to target a hemoglobin level of greater than 11 g/dL increases the risk of serious adverse cardiovascular reactions and has not been shown to provide additional benefit [see Clinical Studies]. Use caution in patients with coexistent cardiovascular disease and stroke [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. Patients with CKD and an insufficient hemoglobin response to ESA therapy may be at even greater risk for cardiovascular reactions and mortality than other patients. A rate of hemoglobin rise of greater than 1 g/dL over 2 weeks may contribute to these risks.
  • In controlled clinical trials of patients with cancer, Aranesp and other ESAs increased the risks for death and serious adverse cardiovascular reactions. These adverse reactions included myocardial infarction and stroke.
  • In controlled clinical trials, ESAs increased the risk of death in patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) and the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) in patients undergoing orthopedic procedures.
The design and overall results of the 3 large trials comparing higher and lower hemoglobin targets are shown in Table 2. Table 2: Randomized Controlled Trials Showing Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients With CKD
  Normal Hematocrit Study (NHS)
(N = 1265) CHOIR
(N = 1432) TREAT
(N = 4038) Time Period of Trial 1993 to 1996 2003 to 2006 2004 to 2009 Population CKD patients on hemodialysis with coexisting CHF or CAD, hematocrit 30 ± 3% on epoetin alfa CKD patients not on dialysis with hemoglobin < 11 g/dL not previously administered epoetin alfa CKD patients not on dialysis with type II diabetes, hemoglobin ≤ 11 g/dL Hemoglobin Target; Higher vs. Lower (g/dL) 14.0 vs. 10.0 13.5 vs. 11.3 13.0 vs. ≥ 9.0 Median (Q1, Q3) Achieved Hemoglobin level (g/dL) 12.6 (11.6, 13.3) vs. 10.3 (10.0, 10.7) 13.0 (12.2, 13.4) vs. 11.4 (11.1, 11.6) 12.5 (12.0, 12.8) vs. 10.6 (9.9, 11.3) Primary Endpoint All-cause mortality or non-fatal MI All-cause mortality, MI, hospitalization for CHF, or stroke All-cause mortality, MI, myocardial ischemia, heart failure, and stroke Hazard Ratio or Relative Risk (95% CI) 1.28 (1.06 - 1.56) 1.34 (1.03 - 1.74) 1.05 (0.94 - 1.17) Adverse Outcome for Higher Target Group All-cause mortality All-cause mortality Stroke Hazard Ratio or Relative Risk (95% CI) 1.27 (1.04 - 1.54) 1.48 (0.97 - 2.27) 1.92 (1.38 - 2.68) Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease Normal Hematocrit Study (NHS): A prospective, randomized, open-label study of 1265 patients with chronic kidney disease on dialysis with documented evidence of congestive heart failure or ischemic heart disease was designed to test the hypothesis that a higher target hematocrit (Hct) would result in improved outcomes compared with a lower target Hct. In this study, patients were randomized to epoetin alfa treatment targeted to a maintenance hemoglobin of either 14 ± 1 g/dL or 10 ± 1 g/dL. The trial was terminated early with adverse safety findings of higher mortality in the high hematocrit target group. Higher mortality (35% vs. 29%) was observed for the patients randomized to a target hemoglobin of 14 g/dL than for the patients randomized to a target hemoglobin of 10 g/dL. For all-cause mortality, the HR = 1.27; 95% CI (1.04, 1.54); p=0.018. The incidence of nonfatal myocardial infarction, vascular access thrombosis, and other thrombotic events was also higher in the group randomized to a target hemoglobin of 14 g/dL. CHOIR:A randomized, prospective trial, 1432 patients with anemia due to CKD who were not undergoing dialysis and who had not previously received epoetin alfa therapy were randomized to epoetin alfa treatment targeting a maintenance hemoglobin concentration of either 13.5 g/dL or 11.3 g/dL. The trial was terminated early with adverse safety findings. A major cardiovascular event (death, myocardial infarction, stroke, or hospitalization for congestive heart failure) occurred in 125 of the 715 patients (18%) in the higher hemoglobin group compared to 97 of the 717 patients (14%) in the lower hemoglobin group [hazard ratio (HR) 1.34, 95% CI: 1.03, 1.74; p = 0.03]. TREAT: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, prospective trial of 4038 patients with CKD not on dialysis (eGFR of 20 – 60 mL/min), anemia (hemoglobin levels ≤ 11 g/dL), and type 2 diabetes mellitus, patients were randomized to receive either Aranesp treatment or a matching placebo. Placebo group patients also received Aranesp when their hemoglobin levels were below 9 g/dL. The trial objectives were to demonstrate the benefit of Aranesp treatment of the anemia to a target hemoglobin level of 13 g/dL, when compared to a “placebo” group, by reducing the occurrence of either of two primary endpoints: (1) a composite cardiovascular endpoint of all-cause mortality or a specified cardiovascular event (myocardial ischemia, CHF, MI, and CVA) or (2) a composite renal endpoint of all-cause mortality or progression to end stage renal disease. The overall risks for each of the two primary endpoints (the cardiovascular composite and the renal composite) were not reduced with Aranesp treatment (see Table 2), but the risk of stroke was increased nearly two-fold in the Aranesp-treated group versus the placebo group: annualized stroke rate 2.1% vs. 1.1%, respectively, HR 1.92; 95% CI: 1.38, 2.68; p < 0.001. The relative risk of stroke was particularly high in patients with a prior stroke: annualized stroke rate 5.2% in the Aranesp treated group and 1.9% in the placebo group, HR 3.07; 95% CI: 1.44, 6.54. Also, among Aranesp-treated subjects with a past history of cancer, there were more deaths due to all causes and more deaths adjudicated as due to cancer, in comparison with the control group. Patients with Cancer An increased incidence of thromboembolic reactions, some serious and life-threatening, occurred in patients with cancer treated with ESAs. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study (Study 1 in Table 3) of 939 women with metastatic breast cancer receiving chemotherapy, patients received either weekly epoetin alfa or placebo for up to a year. This study was designed to show that survival was superior when epoetin alfa was administered to prevent anemia (maintain hemoglobin levels between 12 and 14 g/dL or hematocrit between 36% and 42%). This study was terminated prematurely when interim results demonstrated a higher mortality at 4 months (8.7% vs. 3.4%) and a higher rate of fatal thrombotic reactions (1.1% vs. 0.2%) in the first 4 months of the study among patients treated with epoetin alfa. Based on Kaplan-Meier estimates, at the time of study termination, the 12-month survival was lower in the epoetin alfa group than in the placebo group (70% vs. 76%; HR 1.37, 95% CI: 1.07, 1.75; p = 0.012). Patients Having Surgery Aranesp is not approved for reduction of RBC transfusions in patients scheduled for surgical procedures. An increased incidence of DVT in patients receiving epoetin alfa undergoing surgical orthopedic procedures was demonstrated. In a randomized, controlled study, 680 adult patients, not receiving prophylactic anticoagulation and undergoing spinal surgery, received epoetin alfa and standard of care (SOC) treatment (n = 340) or SOC treatment alone (n = 340). A higher incidence of DVTs, determined by either color flow duplex imaging or by clinical symptoms, was observed in the epoetin alfa group (16 [4.7%] patients) compared with the SOC group (7 [2.1%] patients). In addition to the 23 patients with DVTs included in the primary analysis, 19 [2.8%] patients experienced 1 other thrombovascular event (TVE) each (12 [3.5%] in the epoetin alfa group and 7 [2.1%] in the SOC group). Increased mortality was observed in a randomized, placebo-controlled study of epoetin alfa in adult patients who were undergoing CABG surgery (7 deaths in 126 patients randomized to epoetin alfa versus no deaths among 56 patients receiving placebo). Four of these deaths occurred during the period of study drug administration and all 4 deaths were associated with thrombotic events. Prescribing And Distribution Program For Aranesp In Patients With Cancer In order to prescribe and/or dispense Aranesp to patients with cancer and anemia due to myelosuppressive chemotherapy, prescribers and hospitals must enroll in and comply with the ESA APPRISE Oncology Program requirements. To enroll, visit www.esa-apprise.com or call 1-866-284-8089 for further assistance. Additionally, prior to each new course of Aranesp in patients with cancer, prescribers and patients must provide written acknowledgment of a discussion of the risks of Aranesp. Increased Mortality And/Or Increased Risk Of Tumor Progression Or Recurrence In Patients With Cancer ESAs resulted in decreased locoregional control/progression-free survival and/or overall survival (see Table 3). These findings were observed in studies of patients with advanced head and neck cancer receiving radiation therapy (Studies 5 and 6), in patients receiving chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer (Study 1) or lymphoid malignancy (Study 2), and in patients with non-small cell lung cancer or various malignancies who were not receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy (Studies 7 and 8). Table 3: Randomized, Controlled Studies With Decreased Survival and/or Decreased Locoregional Control
Study/Tumor/(n) Hemoglobin Target Hemoglobin (Median; Q1, Q3*) Primary Efficacy Outcome Adverse Outcome for ESA-containing Arm Chemotherapy Study 1 Metastatic breast cancer (n = 939) 12-14 g/dL 12.9 g/dL; 12.2, 13.3 g/dL 12-month overall survival Decreased 12-month survival Study 2 Lymphoid malignancy (n = 344) 13-15 g/dL (M) 13-14 g/dL (F) 11 g/dL; 9.8, 12.1 g/dL Proportion of patients achieving a hemoglobin response Decreased overall survival Study 3 Early breast cancer (n = 733) 12.5-13 g/dL 13.1 g/dL; 12.5, 13.7 g/dL Relapse-free and overall survival Decreased 3-year relapse-free and overall survival Study 4 Cervical cancer (n = 114) 12-14 g/dL 12.7 g/dL; 12.1, 13.3 g/dL Progression-free and overall survival and locoregional control Decreased 3-year progression-free and overall survival and locoregional control Radiotherapy Alone Study 5 Head and neck cancer (n = 351) ≥ 15 g/dL (M) ≥ 14 g/dL (F) Not available Locoregional progression-free survival Decreased 5-year locoregional progression-free and overall survival Study 6 Head and neck cancer (n = 522) 14-15.5 g/dL Not available Locoregional disease control Decreased locoregional disease control No Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy Study 7 Non-small cell lung cancer (n = 70) 12-14 g/dL Not available Quality of life Decreased overall survival Study 8 Non-myeloid malignancy (n = 989) 12-13 g/dL 10.6 g/dL; 9.4, 11.8 g/dL RBC transfusions Decreased overall survival *Q1= 25th percentile
Q3= 75th percentile Decreased Overall Survival Study 1 was described in the previous section. Mortality at 4 months (8.7% vs. 3.4%) was significantly higher in the epoetin alfa arm. The most common investigator-attributed cause of death within the first 4 months was disease progression; 28 of 41 deaths in the epoetin alfa arm and 13 of 16 deaths in the placebo arm were attributed to disease progression. Investigator-assessed time to tumor progression was not different between the 2 groups. Survival at 12 months was significantly lower in the epoetin alfa arm (70% vs. 76%; HR 1.37, 95% CI: 1.07, 1.75; p = 0.012). Study 2 was a randomized, double-blind study (darbepoetin alfa vs. placebo) conducted in 344 anemic patients with lymphoid malignancy receiving chemotherapy. With a median follow-up of 29 months, overall mortality rates were significantly higher among patients randomized to darbepoetin alfa as compared to placebo (HR 1.36, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.82). Study 7 was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind study (epoetin alfa vs. placebo) in which patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer receiving only palliative radiotherapy or no active therapy were treated with epoetin alfa to achieve and maintain hemoglobin levels between 12 and 14 g/dL. Following an interim analysis of 70 patients (planned accrual 300 patients), a significant difference in survival in favor of the patients in the placebo arm of the study was observed (median survival 63 vs. 129 days; HR 1.84; p = 0.04). Study 8 was a randomized, double-blind study (darbepoetin alfa vs. placebo) in 989 anemic patients with active malignant disease, neither receiving nor planning to receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy. There was no evidence of a statistically significant reduction in proportion of patients receiving RBC transfusions. The median survival was shorter in the darbepoetin alfa treatment group than in the placebo group (8 months vs. 10.8 months; HR 1.30, 95% CI: 1.07, 1.57). Decreased Progression-free Survival and Overall Survival Study 3 was a randomized, open-label, controlled, factorial design study in which darbepoetin alfa was administered to prevent anemia in 733 women receiving neo-adjuvant breast cancer treatment. A final analysis was performed after a median follow-up of approximately 3 years. The 3-year survival rate was lower (86% vs. 90%; HR 1.42, 95% CI: 0.93, 2.18) and the 3-year relapse-free survival rate was lower (72% vs. 78%; HR 1.33, 95% CI: 0.99, 1.79) in the darbepoetin alfa-treated arm compared to the control arm. Study 4 was a randomized, open-label, controlled study that enrolled 114 of a planned 460 cervical cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Patients were randomized to receive epoetin alfa to maintain hemoglobin between 12 and 14 g/dL or to RBC transfusion support as needed. The study was terminated prematurely due to an increase in thromboembolic adverse reactions in epoetin alfa-treated patients compared to control (19% vs. 9%). Both local recurrence (21% vs. 20%) and distant recurrence (12% vs. 7%) were more frequent in epoetin alfa-treated patients compared to control. Progression-free survival at 3 years was lower in the epoetin alfa-treated group compared to control (59% vs. 62%; HR 1.06, 95% CI: 0.58, 1.91). Overall survival at 3 years was lower in the epoetin alfa-treated group compared to control (61% vs. 71%; HR 1.28, 95% CI: 0.68, 2.42). Study 5 was a randomized, placebo-controlled study in 351 head and neck cancer patients where epoetin beta or placebo was administered to achieve target hemoglobins ≥ 14 and ≥ 15 g/dL for women and men, respectively. Locoregional progression-free survival was significantly shorter in patients receiving epoetin beta (HR 1.62, 95% CI: 1.22, 2.14; p = 0.0008) with medians of 406 days and 745 days in the epoetin beta and placebo arms respectively. Overall survival was significantly shorter in patients receiving epoetin beta (HR 1.39, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.84; p = 0.02). Decreased Locoregional Control Study 6 was a randomized, open-label, controlled study conducted in 522 patients with primary squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck receiving radiation therapy alone (no chemotherapy) who were randomized to receive darbepoetin alfa to maintain hemoglobin levels of 14 to15.5 g/dL or no darbepoetin alfa. An interim analysis performed on 484 patients demonstrated that locoregional control at 5 years was significantly shorter in patients receiving darbepoetin alfa (RR 1.44, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.96; p = 0.02). Overall survival was shorter in patients receiving darbepoetin alfa (RR 1.28, 95% CI: 0.98, 1.68; p = 0.08). Hypertension Aranesp is contraindicated in patients with uncontrolled hypertension. In Aranesp clinical studies, approximately 40% of patients with CKD required initiation or intensification of antihypertensive therapy during the early phase of treatment. Hypertensive encephalopathy and seizures have been reported in patients with CKD receiving Aranesp. Appropriately control hypertension prior to initiation of and during treatment with Aranesp. Reduce or withhold Aranesp if blood pressure becomes difficult to control. Advise patients of the importance of compliance with antihypertensive therapy and dietary restrictions [see PATIENT INFORMATION]. Seizures Aranesp increases the risk of seizures in patients with CKD. During the first several months following initiation of Aranesp, monitor patients closely for premonitory neurologic symptoms. Advise patients to contact their healthcare practitioner for new-onset seizures, premonitory symptoms, or change in seizure frequency. Lack Or Loss Of Hemoglobin Response To Aranesp For lack or loss of hemoglobin response to Aranesp, initiate a search for causative factors (e.g., iron deficiency, infection, inflammation, bleeding). If typical causes of lack or loss of hemoglobin response are excluded, evaluate for PRCA. In the absence of PRCA, follow dosing recommendations for management of patients with an insufficient hemoglobin response to Aranesp therapy [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. Pure Red Cell Aplasia Cases of PRCA and of severe anemia, with or without other cytopenias that arise following the development of neutralizing antibodies to erythropoietin have been reported in patients treated with Aranesp. This has been reported predominantly in patients with CKD receiving ESAs by subcutaneous administration. PRCA has also been reported in patients receiving ESAs for anemia related to hepatitis C treatment (an indication for which Aranesp is not approved). If severe anemia and low reticulocyte count develop during treatment with Aranesp, withhold Aranesp and evaluate patients for neutralizing antibodies to erythropoietin. Contact Amgen (1-800-77-AMGEN) to perform assays for binding and neutralizing antibodies. Permanently discontinue Aranesp in patients who develop PRCA following treatment with Aranesp or other erythropoietin protein drugs. Do not switch patients to other ESAs. Serious Allergic Reactions Serious allergic reactions, including anaphylactic reactions, angioedema, bronchospasm, skin rash, and urticaria may occur with Aranesp. Immediately and permanently discontinue Aranesp and administer appropriate therapy if a serious allergic or anaphylactic reaction occurs. Dialysis Management Patients may require adjustments in their dialysis prescriptions after initiation of Aranesp. Patients receiving Aranesp may require increased anticoagulation with heparin to prevent clotting of the extracorporeal circuit during hemodialysis. Laboratory Monitoring Evaluate transferrin saturation and serum ferritin prior to and during Aranesp treatment. Administer supplemental iron therapy when serum ferritin is less than 100 mcg/L or when serum transferrin saturation is less than 20% [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. The majority of patients with CKD will require supplemental iron during the course of ESA therapy. Following initiation of therapy and after each dose adjustment, monitor hemoglobin weekly until the hemoglobin is stable and sufficient to minimize the need for RBC transfusion. Thereafter, hemoglobin may be monitored less frequently provided hemoglobin levels remain stable. Patient Counseling Information See Medication Guide. Prior to treatment, inform patients of the risks and benefits of Aranesp. Inform patients with cancer that they must sign the patient-healthcare provider acknowledgment form before the start of each treatment course with Aranesp and that healthcare providers must enroll and comply with the ESA APPRISE Oncology Program in order to prescribe Aranesp. Inform patients:
  • To read the Medication Guide.
  • Of the increased risks of mortality, serious cardiovascular reactions, thromboembolic reactions, stroke, and tumor progression [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
  • To undergo regular blood pressure monitoring, adhere to prescribed anti-hypertensive regimen and follow recommended dietary restrictions.
  • To contact their healthcare provider for new-onset neurologic symptoms or change in seizure frequency.
  • Of the need to have regular laboratory tests for hemoglobin.
Instruct patients who self-administer Aranesp of the:
  • Importance of following the Instructions for Use.
  • Dangers of reusing needles, syringes, or unused portions of single-dose vials.
  • Proper disposal of used syringes, needles, and unused vials, and of the full container.
Nonclinical Toxicology Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility Carcinogenicity The carcinogenic potential of Aranesp has not been evaluated in long-term animal studies. In toxicity studies of approximately 6 months duration in rats and dogs, no tumorigenic or unexpected mitogenic responses were observed in any tissue type. Mutagenicity Aranesp was not mutagenic or clastogenic under the conditions tested. Aranesp was negative in the in vitro bacterial reverse mutation assay, the in vitro mammalian cell gene mutation assay (using CHO cells), and in the in vivo mouse erythrocyte micronucleus assay. Impairment of Fertility Aranesp increased the incidence of post-implantation losses in rats. Male and female rats received intravenous doses prior to and during mating; then females were treated 3 times weekly during the first trimester of gestation (gestation days 1, 3, 5, and 7). No effect on reproductive performance, fertility, or sperm assessment parameters were detected at any of the doses evaluated (up to 10 mcg/kg, administered 3 times weekly). The dose of 10 mcg/kg is more than 10-fold higher than the clinical recommended starting dose. An increase in post-implantation fetal loss was seen at doses equal to or greater than 0.5 mcg/kg, administered 3 times weekly. The dose of 0.5 mcg/kg is approximately equivalent to the clinical recommended starting dose. Signs of exaggerated pharmacology were not observed in the mother receiving 0.5 mcg/kg or less, but were observed at 2.5 mcg/kg and higher. Use In Specific Populations Pregnancy Pregnancy Category C There are no adequate and well-controlled studies of Aranesp use in pregnant women. In animal reproduction and developmental toxicity studies, Aranesp increased early post-implantation loss. Use Aranesp during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus. When Aranesp was administered intravenously to healthy pregnant rats and rabbits, there was no evidence of embryofetal toxicity or other adverse outcomes at the intravenous doses tested, up to 20 mcg/kg/day. This animal dose level of 20 mcg/kg/day is approximately 20-fold higher than the clinical recommended starting dose, depending on the patient's treatment indication. Slightly reduced fetal weights were observed when healthy rat and rabbit mothers received doses of 1 mcg/kg or more. This dose of 1 mcg/kg is near the clinical recommended starting dose. While no adverse effects on uterine implantation occurred in animals, there was an increase in early post-implantation loss in animal fertility studies. It is not clear whether the increased post-implantation loss reflects a drug effect on the uterine environment or on the conceptus. No significant placental transfer of Aranesp was detected. In a peri/postnatal development study, pregnant female rats received Aranesp intravenously every other day from implantation throughout pregnancy and lactation. The lowest dose tested, 0.5 mcg/kg, did not cause fetal toxicity; this dose is approximately equivalent to the clinical recommended starting dose. At maternal doses of 2.5 mcg/kg and higher, pups had decreased fetal body weights, which correlated with a slight increase in the incidence of fetal deaths, as well as delayed eye opening and delayed preputial separation [see Nonclinical Toxicology]. Women who become pregnant during Aranesp treatment are encouraged to enroll in Amgen's Pregnancy Surveillance Program. Patients or their physicians should call 1-800-772-6436 (1-800-77-AMGEN) to enroll. Nursing Mothers It is not known whether Aranesp is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, caution should be exercised when Aranesp is administered to a nursing woman. Pediatric Use Pediatric Patients with CKD Aranesp safety and efficacy were similar between adults and pediatric patients with CKD who were over 1 year of age when patients were transitioned from treatment with epoetin alfa to Aranesp [see ADVERSE REACTIONS, CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY, and Clinical Studies]. Aranesp safety and efficacy have not been established in the initial treatment of anemic pediatric patients with CKD or in the transition from another erythropoietin to Aranesp in pediatric CKD patients less than 1 year of age. Pediatric Cancer Patients The safety and efficacy of Aranesp in pediatric cancer patients have not been established. Geriatric Use Of the 1801 patients with CKD in clinical studies of Aranesp, 44% were age 65 and over, while 17% were age 75 and over. Of the 873 patients in clinical studies receiving Aranesp and concomitant cancer chemotherapy, 45% were age 65 and over, while 14% were age 75 and over. No differences in safety or efficacy were observed between older and younger patients. Last reviewed on RxList: 1/27/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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