Interferon Alfa-2b

Interferon Alfa-2b treats certain types of hepatitis infections and certain types of cancers. Your doctor may recommend taking Tylenol at time of injection. Follow directions to ensure correct dose.

Interferon Alfa-2b Overview

Reviewed: September 13, 2012
Updated: 

Interferon alfa-2b is a prescription medication used to treat chronic hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis C, certain type of genital warts, hairy cell leukemia, malignant melanoma, AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, and follicular lymphoma.

Interferon alfa-2b belongs to a group of drugs called interferons. This medication works by stopping viruses from dividing and by triggering our immune system to kill invading pathogens or tumors.

This medication comes in an injectable form and is given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous) or into a muscle (intramuscular), into genital lesions, or as an injection into a vein (intravenous), depending on the condition that is being treated. 
 
Common side effects of interferon alfa-2b include flu-like symptoms, tiredness, and loss of appetite.

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What are you taking Interferon Alfa-2b for?

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  • Other
  • Brain Neoplasms
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell
  • Colorectal Neoplasms
  • Condylomata Acuminata
  • Cryoglobulinemia
  • Hemangioma
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic
  • Hepatitis D
  • Herpes Genitalis
  • Hypereosinophilic Syndrome
  • Ileal Neoplasms
  • Leukemia, Hairy Cell
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, Bcr-abl Positive
  • Lymphomatoid Granulomatosis
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Malignant Carcinoid Syndrome
  • Melanoma
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Mycosis Fungoides
  • Polycythemia Vera
  • Purpura, Thrombocytopenic
  • Sezary Syndrome
  • Skin Neoplasms
  • Skin Ulcer
  • Thrombocythemia, Essential
  • Thrombocytopenia
  • Thyroid Neoplasms
  • Warts

How long have you been taking it?

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  • Less than a week
  • A couple weeks
  • A month or so
  • A few months
  • A year or so
  • Two years or more

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Uses of Interferon Alfa-2b

Interferon alfa-2b is a prescription medication used to treat:

  • adults with a blood cancer called hairy cell leukemia
  • adults with a type of skin cancer called malignant melanoma
  • adults with some types of Follicular Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma along with certain chemotherapy medicines
  • adults with genital warts (condylomata acuminate), by injecting the medicine directly into the warts
  • adults with a type of cancer caused by AIDS, called AIDS-related Kaposi's Sarcoma
  • adults with chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis C infection with stable liver problems
  • chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis C infection in people 3 years and older with stable liver problems (along with another medication)
  • chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis B infection in people 1 year and older with stable liver problems

This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Interferon Alfa-2b Brand Names

Interferon Alfa-2b may be found in some form under the following brand names:

Interferon Alfa-2b Drug Class

Interferon Alfa-2b is part of the drug class:

Side Effects of Interferon Alfa-2b

Interferon alfa-2b may cause serious side effects including:

  • See "Drug Precautions".
  • Blood problems. Interferon alfa-2b can affect your bone marrow and cause low white blood cell and platelet counts. In some people, these blood counts may fall to dangerously low levels. If your blood cell counts become very low, you can get infections or have bleeding problems.
  • Serious eye problems. Interferon alfa-2b may cause eye problems that may lead to vision loss or blindness. You should have an eye exam before you start taking interferon alfa-2b. If you have eye problems or have had them in the past, you may need eye exams while taking interferon alfa-2b. Tell your healthcare provider or eye doctor right away if you have any vision changes while taking interferon alfa-2b.
  • Thyroid problems. Some people develop changes in the function of their thyroid. Symptoms of thyroid problems include:
    • problems concentrating
    • feeling cold or hot all the time
    • changes in your weight
    • skin changes
  • Blood sugar problems. Some people may develop high blood sugar or diabetes. If you have high blood sugar or diabetes before starting interferon alfa-2b, talk to your healthcare provider before you take interferon alfa-2b. If you develop high blood sugar or diabetes while taking interferon alfa-2b, your healthcare provider may tell you to stop interferon alfa-2b and prescribe a different medicine for you. Symptoms of high blood sugar or diabetes may include:
    • increased thirst
    • tiredness
    • urinating more often than normal
    • increased appetite
    • weight loss
    • your breath smells like fruit
  • Lung problems including:
    • trouble breathing
    • pneumonia
    • inflammation of lung tissue
    • new or worse high blood pressure of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). This can be severe and may lead to death. 
You may need to have a chest X-ray or other tests if you develop fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of a lung problem during treatment with interferon alfa-2b.
  • Severe liver problems, or worsening of liver problems including liver failure and death. Symptoms may include:
    • nausea
    • loss of appetite
    • tiredness
    • diarrhea
    • yellowing of your skin or the white part of your eyes
    • bleeding more easily than normal
    • swelling of your stomach area (abdomen)
    • confusion
    • sleepiness
    • you cannot be awakened (coma)
  • Serious allergic reactions and skin reactions. Symptoms may include:
    • itching
    • swelling of your face, eyes, lips, tongue, or throat
    • trouble breathing
    • anxiousness
    • chest pain
    • feeling faint
    • skin rash, hives, sores in your mouth, or your skin blisters and peels
  • Swelling of your pancreas (pancreatitis) and intestines (colitis). Symptoms may include:
    • severe stomach area (abdomen) pain
    • severe back pain
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • fever
  • New or worsening autoimmune disease. Some patients taking interferon alfa-2b develop autoimmune diseases (a condition where the body's immune cells attack other cells or organs in the body), including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, and psoriasis. In some patients who already have an autoimmune disease, the disease may worsen while on interferon alfa-2b.
  • Nerve problems. People who take interferon alfa-2b or other alpha interferon products with telbivudine (Tyzeka) can develop nerve problems such as continuing numbness, tingling, or burning sensation in the arms or legs (peripheral neuropathy). Call your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms.
  • Growth problems in children. Weight loss and slowed growth are common in children during treatment with Intron A.
  • Dental and gum problems.

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the symptoms listed above.

The most common side effects of interferon alfa-2b include:

  • Flu-like symptoms. Symptoms may include: headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and fever. Some of these symptoms may be decreased by injecting your interferon alfa-2b dose in the evening. Talk to your healthcare provider about which over-the-counter medicines you can take to help prevent or decrease some of the symptoms.
  • Tiredness. Many people become very tired during treatment with interferon alfa-2b.
  • Appetite problems. Nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss can happen with interferon alfa-2b.
  • Skin reactions. Redness, swelling, and itching are common at the injection site.
  • Hair thinning.

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

These are not all the side effects of interferon alfa-2b. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

 

Interferon Alfa-2b Interactions

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Intron A and certain other medicines may affect each other and cause side effects.

Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take:

  • the anti-hepatitis B medicine telbivudine (Tyzeka)
  • the anti-HIV medicine zidovudine (Retrovir)
  • theophylline (Theo-24, Elixophyllin, Uniphyl, Theolair). Your healthcare provider may need to monitor the amount of theophylline in your body and make changes to your theophylline dose.

Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

 

Interferon Alfa-2b Precautions

Interferon alfa-2b can cause serious side effects that:

  • may cause death, or
  • may worsen certain serious diseases that you may already have.

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the symptoms listed below while taking interferon alfa-2b. If symptoms get worse, or become severe and continue, your healthcare provider may tell you to stop taking interferon alfa-2b permanently. In many, but not all people, these symptoms go away after they stop taking interferon alfa-2b.

1.  Heart problems. Some people who take interferon alfa-2b may develop heart problems, including:
  • low blood pressure
  • fast heart rate or abnormal heart beats
  • trouble breathing or chest pain
  • heart attacks or heart muscle problems (cardiomyopathy)
2.  Stroke or symptoms of a stroke. Symptoms may include weakness, loss of coordination, and numbness. Stroke or symptoms of a stroke may happen in people who have some risk factors or no known risk factors for a stroke.
 
3.  Mental health problems and suicide. Interferon alfa-2b may cause you to develop mood or behavior problems that may get worse during treatment with Intron A or after your last dose, including:
  • irritability (getting upset easily)
  • depression (feeling low, feeling bad about yourself, or feeling hopeless)
  • aggressive behavior
  • thoughts of hurting yourself or others, or suicide
  • former drug addicts may fall back into drug addiction or overdose

If you have these symptoms, your healthcare provider should carefully monitor you during treatment with interferon alfa-2b and for 6 months after your last dose.

4.  New or worsening autoimmune disease. Some people taking interferon alfa-2b develop autoimmune diseases (a condition where the body's immune cells attack other cells or organs in the body), including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, and psoriasis. In some people who already have an autoimmune disease, the disease may get worse while on interferon alfa-2b.
 
5.  Infections. Some people who take interferon alfa-2b may get an infection. Symptoms may include:
  • fever
  • chills
  • bloody diarrhea
  • burning or pain with urination
  • urinating often
  • coughing up mucus (phlegm) that is discolored (for example yellow or pink)

While taking interferon alfa-2b, you should see a healthcare provider regularly for check-ups and blood tests to make sure that your treatment is working and to check for side effects.

Do not take interferon alfa-2b if you:

  • had a serious allergic reaction to another alpha interferon product or are allergic to any of the ingredients in interferon alfa-2b. Ask your healthcare provider if you are not sure.
  • have certain types of hepatitis (autoimmune hepatitis)
  • have certain other liver problems

Talk to your healthcare provider before taking interferon alfa-2b if you have any of these conditions.

Inform MD

Before you take interferon alfa-2b, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • See "Drug Precautions".
  • have or ever had any problems with your heart, including heart attack or have high blood pressure
  • have or ever had bleeding problems or blood clots
  • are being treated for a mental illness or had treatment in the past for any mental illness, including depression and suicidal behavior
  • have any kind of autoimmune disease (where the body's immune system attacks the body's own cells), such as psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis
  • have or ever had low blood cell counts
  • have ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • have liver problems (other than hepatitis B or C)
  • have or had lung problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • have diabetes
  • have colitis (inflammation of your intestine)
  • have a condition that suppresses your immune system, such as cancer
  • have hepatitis B or C infection
  • have HIV infection (the virus that causes AIDS)
  • have kidney problems
  • have high blood triglyceride levels (fat in your blood)
  • have an organ transplant and are taking medicine that keeps your body from rejecting your transplant (suppresses your immune system)
  • have any other medical conditions
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if interferon alfa-2b will harm your unborn baby. You should use effective birth control during treatment with interferon alfa-2b. Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control choices for you during treatment with interferon alfa-2b. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant during treatment with interferon alfa-2b.
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if interferon alfa-2b passes into your breast milk. You and your healthcare provider should decide if you will use interferon alfa-2b or breastfeed. You should not do both.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Interferon alfa-2b and certain other medicines may affect each other and cause side effects.

 

Interferon Alfa-2b and Pregnancy

Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if interferon alfa-2b will harm your unborn baby. You should use effective birth control during treatment with interferon alfa-2b. Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control choices for you during treatment with interferon alfa-2b. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant during treatment with interferon alfa-2b.

Interferon Alfa-2b and Lactation

Tell your healthcare provider if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if interferon alfa-2b passes into your breast milk. You and your healthcare provider should decide if you will use interferon alfa-2b or breastfeed. You should not do both.

Interferon Alfa-2b Usage

  • Interferon alfa-2b is given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneous) or into a muscle (intramuscular), into genital lesions, or as an injection into a vein (intravenous), depending on the condition that is being treated.
  • Your healthcare provider will decide your dose of interferon alfa-2b and how often you will take it.
  • If your healthcare provider decides that you can inject interferon alfa-2b for your condition, inject it exactly as prescribed, under your skin (subcutaneous injection) or into your muscle (intramuscular injection). Do not change your dose or how you inject interferon alfa-2b unless your healthcare provider tells you to.
  • Do not take more than your prescribed dose.
  • Your healthcare provider should show you how to prepare and measure your dose of interferon alfa-2b and how to inject yourself before you use interferon alfa-2b for the first time.
  • You should not inject interferon alfa-2b until your healthcare provider has shown you how to use interferon alfa-2b the right way.
  • Interferon alfa-2b comes as:
    • a powder for injection in a vial that is used only 1 time (single-use vial). The powder must be mixed with water for injection (a diluent) before you inject it.
    • a solution for injection in a multi-dose vial
    • a solution for injection in a pen that is used more than 1 time (multidose pen)
  • If you miss a dose of interferon alfa-2b, take the missed dose as soon as possible during the same day or the next day, then continue on your regular dosing schedule. If several days go by after you miss a dose, check with your healthcare provider to see what to do.
  • Do not inject more than 1 dose or take more than your prescribed dose without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • If you take too much interferon alfa-2b, call your healthcare provider right away. Your healthcare provider may examine you more closely, and do blood tests.
  • Your healthcare provider should do regular blood tests before you start interferon alfa-2b, and during your treatment to see how well the treatment is working and to check for side effects.

Interferon Alfa-2b Overdose

If you take too much interferon alfa-2b, call your healthcare provider right away. Your healthcare provider may examine you more closely, and do blood tests.

Other Requirements

Interferon alfa-2b for Injection and Interferon alfa-2b Solution for Injection in the Multidose Pens:

  • Store in the refrigerator between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C).
  • Interferon alfa-2b Solution for Injection in Multidose vials for injection and interferon alfa-2b Solution for Injection in the Multidose Pens may be used to give more than 1 injection of medicine.
  • Do not freeze.
  • Throw away any unused interferon alfa-2b Multidose Pen remaining after 4 weeks.
  • Throw away any unused interferon alfa-2b Solution for Injection remaining in the vial after one month.

Interferon alfa-2b Powder for Injection:

Before mixing, store in the refrigerator between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C).

  • After mixing the interferon alfa-2b Powder for Injection, use the solution right away or store the solution in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C).
  • Throw away any medicine left in the vial after you withdraw 1 dose.
  • Do not freeze.

Keep interferon alfa-2b and all medicines out of the reach of children.

 

Interferon Alfa-2b FDA Warning

WARNING

Alpha interferons, including interferon alfa-2b, cause or aggravate fatal or life-threatening neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, ischemic, and infectious disorders. Patients should be monitored closely with periodic clinical and laboratory evaluations. Patients with persistently severe or worsening signs or symptoms of these conditions should be withdrawn from therapy. In many but not all cases these disorders resolve after stopping interferon alfa-2b therapy.