Generic Drug Name: Erythropoietin
Other Common Names: EPO, Epogen, Procrit, Eprex
Erythropoietin is a hormone produced in the body that is responsible for inducing production of red blood cells by the bone marrow. In animals, it is primarily used to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney disease. It is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in animals, but it is prescribed legally as an extra-label drug by veterinarians.
Because the synthetic form of the hormone is manufactured using human DNA and not animal DNA, there's a risk of antibody production against it. For this reason, it is very important to withhold use of erythropoietin until truly necessary.
The most concerning adverse event associated with erythropoietin use is antibody production. This is because the antibodies will attack more than just the alien erythropoietin; the body's natural hormone will also be attacked, triggering a sudden drop in red cell count. High blood pressure, thick blood, and seizures are other side effects associated with treatment.
Erythropoietin should not be administered to animals with uncontrolled high blood pressure. Proper injection technique is crucial when administering erythropoietin. In order for the bone marrow to make red blood cells, it must have adequate iron and B vitamins. These nutrients should be supplied in supplement form during administration of erythropoietin.
Erythropoietin should not be used in animals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to the drug. Any known or suspected overdose should be reported to a veterinarian right away.
Bottles of erythropoietin must be refrigerated at all times. Like other medications and supplements, erythropoietin should be stored in its original packaging, out of the reach of children and animals.
Erythropoietin is available for use as a subcutaneous injection. A typical initial starting dose of erythropoietin is 50-100 units per kg. The hormone is typically given by injection three times each week in conjunction with an oral iron supplement, and the dose is modified as needed following testing to determine red cell count.
Doses may vary in different species, when the drug is given by a different route or concurrently with other medications, and with regards to a patient's age, breed, and health status. A veterinarian's dosing instructions and/or those printed on the medication label should be followed closely.