Filgrastim is a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to increase white blood cell counts. If a patient has a lower than normal white blood cell count it is referred to as neutropenia.
Filgrastim can be used to treat neutropenia caused by cancer chemotherapy treatment. In these patients the filgrastim increases the recovery of white blood cells after chemotherapy. Filgrastim can also be used to treat patients who have a neutropenia not related to chemotherapy. In both cases, the filgrastim decreases the risk of fever and infection.
Filgrastim is not usually used in leukemia patients. However, in patients with the disease known as acute myelcytic leukemia it is approved for use after chemotherapy. Filgrastim can increase the recovery of the white blood cell count thereby decreasing the length of time a patient may have a fever associated with a low white count.
Filgrastim can also be used after bone marrow transplantation. Once the new healthy bone marrow has been given back to a patient, filgrastim can be administered to help increase the white blood cell count and decrease the risk of fever and infection.
Filgrastim can be used for patients who will receive a peripheral blood stem cell transplant. Patients will receive the filgrastim before the transplant. The filgrastim in these patients causes young, non-developed blood cells, known as stem or progenitor cells, to move from the bone marrow to the blood where they will then be removed from a patient by the process of apheresis. These blood cells are stored until after the patient receives larges doses of chemotherapy that destroy the bone marrow and the cancer. The patient then receives these stored cells back by an intravenous infusion. The stored cells repopulate the bone marrow and develop into the many types of functioning blood cells.
Nancy J Beaulieu RPh., BCOP, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,