Low white blood cell counts, a condition known as neutropenia, can occur as a result of certain diseases or as a side effect to medications, particularly cancer chemotherapy. Fortunately, several drugs have been developed that safely and effectively increase white blood cell levels. These drugs are most often administered after chemotherapy treatments to prevent white cell loss and potentially fatal infections.
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Neulasta is prescribed to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who may have low white blood cell counts and are at risk for infection. According to Amgen, the manufacturer of Neulasta, the medication works by boosting the production of white cells by the bone marrow. Neulasta is administered by injection 24 hours after the start of chemotherapy. A common side effect of Neulasta is mild bone pain, which is typically treated with acetaminophen. Dangerous side effects are very rare but include spleen rupture and severe allergic reactions.
Neupogen is a protein-based drug administered by injection which increases the production of white blood cells. According to Drugs.com, Neupogen is administered to patients with neutropenia resulting from cancer, bone marrow transplant or chemotherapy. Patients with sickle cell anemia or with certain forms of leukemia should not use Neupogen.
Neupogen is usually administered by a doctor or nurse and should not be self-administered unless the patient is explicitly trained in how to self-administer. The medication is typically administered daily for two weeks, beginning one day after the start of chemotherapy. Neupogen is produced in a process involving E. coli bacteria and should not be used by patients with severe allergies to E. coli or other drugs produced in bacteria.
Leukine is a white-cell-boosting drug used to prevent the incidence of life-threatening infections in patients receiving chemotherapy. Leukine is also used in patients undergoing certain stem cell transplantation therapies. Leukine.com lists evidence that demonstrates that Leukine prevents fungal infections in patients 55 and older undergoing chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia. Leukine treatment typically begins four days following chemotherapy. Genzyme, the producer of Leukine, explains that Leukine is administered by IV over the course of several hours. Severe allergic reactions have been reported with Leukine use. Patients with allergies to yeast should avoid Leukine.