Interferons

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Question

What are interferons and are there any side effects?

Answer

Interferons are a family of proteins produced either naturally by the immune system or synthetically. Interferons fight viral infections and affect the ability of the virus to multiply in certain cells including liver cells. These drugs may be used to treat certain types of cancers, genital warts, a type of respiratory growth, and hepatitis B and C.

Examples of interferons include interferon alfa-2b (Intron-A«), and interferon alfacon-1 (Infergen«). Another type of interferon is pegylated interferon which bonds interferon with polyethylene glycol (a gelatinous compound used to thicken food). Examples of pegylated interferon include peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys«), and peginterferon alfa-2b (Peg-Intron«).

Potential side effects of interferon

Side effects of interferons may include appetite loss, change in taste, reversible thinning of hair, severe depression, suicidal behavior, and trouble concentrating. If any side effects become severe or bothersome, be sure to notify your doctor immediately. Interferons can cause or aggravate life-threatening or fatal autoimmune disorders as well as infection, ischemic, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, patients should be closely monitored by a healthcare professional for these side effects and disorders while on Interferons. People with diabetes, depression, or mood disorders should also be monitored closely while taking interferon.

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