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What Is Eculizumab?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Eculizumab is a generic medication commonly marketed under the brand name Soliris™. This drug is prescribed to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), which is a type of blood disease. PNH causes the body to destroy red blood cells in a process called hemolysis, which can lead to anemia. Eculizumab helps reduce hemolysis, which can decrease the number of blood transfusions an anemic patient may need. It can also reduce symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue.

Patients will receive eculizumab as an injection, usually given by a health care professional. The injection typically takes at least 35 minutes or up to two hours to administer. It will be given intravenously, or into a vein, once a week for five weeks. Patients will then likely require an injection once every two weeks.

Some people may experience a reaction immediately following the injection. If any side effects are immediately noticeable, the intravenous therapy was likely administered too quickly. Patients who experience a reaction should be monitored for at least one hour following the dosage. This medication should not be abruptly discontinued. The patient's red blood cells can be adversely affected, which may result in symptoms like chest pain, blood clots, and confusion, along with kidney problems, pale skin, and easy bruising.

Eculizumab may cause some side effects, which should be reported to the physician if they are bothersome. These can include back pain, a mild headache, and a runny nose. A sore throat, nausea, and constipation have also been reported.

More serious side effects may rarely occur. Since eculizumab can suppress the immune system, patients may be more likely to experience a serious infection, including meningitis, which is life-threatening. Patients should get emergency medical help if they experience a high fever, rapid heartbeat, or sensitivity to light. Changes in the amount of urine, a stiff neck, and a severe headache may also be serious. To help prevent this dangerous complication, patients should get a meningitis vaccine at least two weeks prior to their first dose of eculizumab, if they require this vaccination.

Before using eculizumab, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. As of 2011, it is unknown whether this PNH medication may pass into breast milk. Women who are pregnant should discuss potential risks with their doctors. Those who have bacterial meningitis should never use this medicine. Patients who are planning to undergo surgery, including dental procedures, must inform the surgeon that they are using this drug.

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