Darbepoetin alfa (rINN) (pronounced /dɑrbəˈpɔɪtɨn/) is a synthetic form of erythropoietin. It stimulates erythropoiesis (increases red blood cell levels) and is used to treat anemia, commonly associated with chronic renal failure and cancer chemotherapy. Darbepoetin is marketed by Amgen under the trade name Aranesp.
The drug was approved in September 2001 by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of anemia in patients with chronic renal failure by intravenous or subcutaneous injection. In June 2001, it had been approved by the European Medicines Agency for this indication as well as the treatment of anemia in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has launched darbepoetin alfa in India under the brand name ‘Cresp’ in August 2010. This is the world’s first generic darbepoetin alfa. Cresp has been approved in India.
Darbepoetin is produced by recombinant DNA technology in modified Chinese hamster ovary cells. It differs from endogenous erythropoietin (EPO) by containing two more N-linked oligosaccharide chains. It is an erythropoiesis-stimulating 165-amino acid protein.
Like EPO, its use increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, including cardiac arrest, arrhythmia, hypertension and hypertensive encephalopathy, congestive heart failure, vascular thrombosis or ischemia, myocardial infarction and edema. Also seizures and strokes. A recent study has extended these findings to treatment of patients exhibiting cancer-related anemia (distinct from anemia resulting from chemotherapy). Pre-existing untreated hypertension is a contra-indication for darbepoetin, as well as some hematologic diseases. Other reported adverse reactions include hypotension, fever, chest pains, nausea and myalgia.
Like EPO, it has the potential to be abused by athletes seeking a competitive advantage. Its use during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games to improve performance led to the disqualification of cross-country skiers Larisa Lazutina and Olga Danilova of Russia and Johann Mühlegg of Spain from their final races. Nevertheless, recent publication in professional literature indicate that the detection of prohibited substances at the 2002 Olympics may have been false as a result of less-than-perfect detection methodology, and the Olympic champions could therefore wrongly suffer IOC sanctions.
Safety advisories in anemic cancer patients
Amgen sent a "dear doctor" letter in January, 2007, that highlighted results from a recent anemia of cancer trial, and warned doctors to consider use in that
off-label indication with caution.
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