Hepatitis Home > Precautions and Warnings With Peginterferon Alfa-2a

Because peginterferon alfa-2a is not suitable for everyone, your healthcare provider needs to know if you have any mood disorders, lung problems, or any allergies before prescribing it. Precautions for safely using peginterferon alfa-2a also include warnings of potential problems this drug may cause, such as liver failure, depression, or heart problems.

What Should I Tell My Healthcare Provider?

You should talk with your healthcare provider prior to using peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys®) if you have:
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
  • Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • Breastfeeding.
You should also tell your healthcare provider about all other medications you are taking, including prescription and nonprescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Specific Peginterferon Alfa-2a Warnings and Precautions

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to using this medicine include the following:
  • Probably the most important thing to know about peginterferon alfa-2a is that interferon medications, including this one, may increase the risk for depression or other psychiatric problems. Make sure your healthcare provider knows if you have depression or another mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder or manic depression, or if your depression becomes worse while you are using this medication.
  • In studies, peginterferon alfa-2a appeared to increase the risk for heart problems, such as heart attacks or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias). If you develop heart problems, you will probably need to stop using this medication permanently.
  • This medicine can cause a variety of problems in the eye, including damage to the retina, which could lead to blindness. Let your healthcare provider know immediately if you develop any vision changes, such as blurred vision. You will need eye exams before you start peginterferon alfa-2a and periodically thereafter.
  • There have been reports of strokes in people using peginterferon alfa-2a or other similar medications. Some of these cases occurred in people who were not otherwise at risk for a stroke. However, there is no clear link between peginterferon alfa-2a and strokes at this time.
  • This drug can cause low blood cell counts, increasing the risk for dangerous infections or serious bleeding. You will need periodic blood tests to make sure your blood cell counts are not dropping too low.
  • There have been cases of peginterferon alfa-2a causing or worsening preexisting autoimmune disorders, such as:
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Psoriasis
    • Thyroiditis
    • Interstitial nephritis
    • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
    • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
    • Lupus.
  • Peginterferon alfa-2a often causes poor growth in children. Often, but not always, growth catches up after treatment is finished.
  • There have been reports of colitis in people using this medicine. Let your healthcare provider know right away if you have symptoms of this condition, such as:
    • Bloody diarrhea
    • Abdominal (stomach) pain
    • Fever.
  • There have been reports of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which may be quite dangerous, in people using peginterferon alfa-2a. Let your healthcare provider know immediately if you have any signs of this condition, such as:
    • Severe abdominal (stomach) pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Loss of appetite.
  • Peginterferon alfa-2a can cause or worsen serious lung problems. Make sure your healthcare provider knows if you have any lung problems before starting treatment.
  • This medication can sometimes cause liver failure. Your liver will need to be closely monitored during treatment.
  • Peginterferon alfa-2a can worsen kidney function, particularly in people who already have kidney disease. Your kidney function may need to be monitored during treatment.
  • In rare cases, peginterferon alfa-2a can cause serious allergic reactions.
  • Various dental problems have been reported with peginterferon alfa-2a. Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist regularly while using this medicine.
  • This product can affect thyroid function, sometimes unpredictably. It is recommended that your healthcare provider check your thyroid function, using a simple blood test, before you start this medication and periodically thereafter.
  • This drug might cause diabetes. Your healthcare provider may want to check you blood sugar levels periodically.
  • This product is a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using this drug when pregnant (see Pegasys and Pregnancy). Keep in mind that peginterferon alfa-2a is sometimes combined with ribavirin (Rebetol®), a medication that should never be used during pregnancy.
  • It is not known whether peginterferon alfa-2a passes through breast milk. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding or plan to start, discuss this with your healthcare provider prior to using the drug (see Pegasys and Breastfeeding).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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