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Specific Warnings and Precautions With Pegasys

Some warnings and precautions to be aware of prior to using this medicine include the following:
  • Probably the most important thing to know about Pegasys is that as an interferon medication, it 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 Pegasys.
  • In studies, Pegasys 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 Pegasys and periodically thereafter.
  • There have been reports of strokes in people using Pegasys 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 Pegasys 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 Pegasys causing or worsening preexisting autoimmune disorders, such as:
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Psoriasis
    • Thyroiditis
    • Interstitial nephritis
    • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura
    • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
    • Lupus.
  • Pegasys 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 drug. Let your healthcare provider know right away if you have symptoms of this problem, 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 Pegasys. 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.
  • Pegasys 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.
  • Pegasys 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, Pegasys can cause serious allergic reactions.
  • Various dental problems have been reported with this medication. Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist regularly while using it.
  • 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 your blood sugar levels periodically.
  • Pegasys is a pregnancy Category C medication. This means that it may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using this drug when pregnant (see Pegasys and Pregnancy). Keep in mind that it is sometimes combined with ribavirin (Rebetol®), a medication that should never be used during pregnancy.
  • It is not known whether Pegasys 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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