Interferon (cont.)

For what conditions are interferons used?

Since interferons enhance the immune system in many ways, they are used for many diseases that involve the immune system. For example:

  • Interferon alfa-2a (Roferon-A) is FDA-approved to treat hairy cell leukemia, AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, and chronic myelogenous leukemia.

  • Interferon alfa-2b is approved for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia, malignant melanoma, condylomata acuminata, AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, chronic hepatitis C, and chronic hepatitis B.

  • Ribavirin combined with interferon alfa-2b, interferon alfacon-1 (Infergen), pegylated interferon alfa-2b, or pegylated interferon alpha-2a, all are approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C.

  • Interferon beta-1b (Betaseron) and interferon beta-1a (Avonex) are approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

  • Interferon alfa-n3 (Alferon-N) is approved for the treatment of genital and perianal warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).

  • Interferon gamma-1B (Actimmune) is approved for the treatment of chronic granulomatous disease, and severe, malignant osteopetrosis.

Are there any differences among the different types of interferons?

Although interferons are very similar they affect the body differently. Therefore, different interferons are used for different conditions. Interferon alphas are used for treating cancers and viral infections; interferon betas are used for treating multiple sclerosis; and interferon gamma is used for treating chronic granulomatous disease.

What are the side effects of interferons?

Flu-like symptoms following each injection (fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and pains, malaise) occur with all of the interferons. These symptoms vary from mild to severe and occur in up to half of all patients. The symptoms tend to diminish with repeated injections and may be managed with analgesics such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).



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