8 USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS
RETACRIT from multiple-dose vials contains benzyl alcohol and is contraindicated in pregnant women [see Contraindications (4)]. When therapy with RETACRIT is needed during pregnancy, use a benzyl alcohol-free formulation (i.e., single-dose vial). Do not mix RETACRIT with bacteriostatic saline when administering to pregnant women because it contains benzyl alcohol (see Clinical Considerations) [see Dosage and Administration (2.1)].
The limited available data on epoetin alfa use in pregnant women are insufficient to determine a drug-associated risk of adverse developmental outcomes. In animal reproductive and developmental toxicity studies, adverse fetal effects including embryo-fetal death, skeletal anomalies, and growth defects occurred when pregnant rats received epoetin alfa at doses approximating the clinical recommended starting doses (see Data). Consider the benefits and risks of RETACRIT single-dose vials for the mother and possible risks to the fetus when prescribing RETACRIT to a pregnant woman.
The estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown. All pregnancies have a background risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the estimated background risks of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2–4% and 15–20%, respectively.
Fetal/Neonatal Adverse Reactions
The multiple-dose vials of RETACRIT contain benzyl alcohol. The preservative benzyl alcohol has been associated with serious adverse reactions and death when administered intravenously to neonates and infants [see Warnings and Precautions (5.9), Use in Specific Populations (8.4)]. There is a potential for similar risks to fetuses exposed to benzyl alcohol in utero.
There are reports of pregnant women with anemia alone or anemia associated with severe renal disease and other hematologic disorders who received epoetin alfa. Polyhydramnios and intrauterine growth restriction were reported in women with chronic renal disease, which is associated with an increased risk for these adverse pregnancy outcomes. Due to the limited number of exposed pregnancies and multiple confounding factors (such as underlying maternal conditions, other maternal medications, and gestational timing of exposure), these published case reports and studies do not reliably estimate the frequency, presence or absence of adverse outcomes.
When rats received epoetin alfa at doses greater than or equal to 100 Units/kg/day during mating and through early pregnancy (dosing stopped prior to organogenesis), there were slight increases in the incidences of pre- and post-implantation loss, and a decrease in live fetuses in the presence of maternal toxicity (red limbs/pinna, focal splenic capsular toxicity, increased organ weights). This animal dose level of 100 Units/kg/day may approximate the clinical recommended starting dose, depending on the treatment indication. When pregnant rats and rabbits received intravenous doses of up to 500 mg/kg/day of epoetin alfa only during organogenesis (gestational days 7 to 17 in rats and gestational days 6 to 18 in rabbits), no teratogenic effects were observed in the offspring. The offspring (F1 generation) of the treated rats were observed postnatally; rats from the F1 generation reached maturity and were mated; no epoetin alfa-related effects were apparent for their offspring (F2 generation fetuses).
When pregnant rats received epoetin alfa at doses of 500 Units/kg/day late in pregnancy (after the period of organogenesis from day 17 of gestation through day 21 of lactation), pups exhibited decreased number of caudal vertebrae, decreased body weight gain, and delayed appearance of abdominal hair, eyelid opening, and ossification in the presence of maternal toxicity (red limbs/pinna, increased organ weights). This animal dose level of 500 U/kg/day is approximately five times the clinical recommended starting dose depending on the patient's treatment indication.
RETACRIT from multiple-dose vials contains benzyl alcohol and is contraindicated in lactating women [see Contraindications (4), Warnings and Precautions (5.9)]. Advise a lactating woman not to breastfeed for at least 2 weeks after the last dose. The preservative benzyl alcohol has been associated with serious adverse reactions and death when administered intravenously to neonates and infants [see Use in Specific Populations (8.4)]. There is a potential for similar risks to infants exposed to benzyl alcohol through human milk.
Do not mix RETACRIT with bacteriostatic saline containing benzyl alcohol, if administering RETACRIT to a lactating woman [see Dosage and Administration (2.1)].
There is no information regarding the presence of epoetin alfa products in human milk, the effects on the breastfed infant, or the effects on milk production. However, endogenous erythropoietin is present in human milk. Because many drugs are present in human milk, caution should be exercised when RETACRIT is administered to a lactating woman.
8.4 Pediatric Use
The multiple-dose vials are formulated with benzyl alcohol and are contraindicated for use in neonates and infants [see Contraindications (4), Warnings and Precautions (5.9)]. When therapy with RETACRIT is needed in neonates and infants, use the single-dose vial, which is a benzyl alcohol-free formulation. Do not mix the single-dose vials with bacteriostatic saline when administering RETACRIT to neonates or infants because it contains benzyl alcohol [see Dosage and Administration (2.6)].
Serious adverse reactions including fatal reactions and the "gasping syndrome" occurred in premature neonates and infants in the neonatal intensive care unit who received drugs containing benzyl alcohol as a preservative. In these cases, benzyl alcohol dosages of 99 to 234 mg/kg/day produced high levels of benzyl alcohol and its metabolites in the blood and urine (blood levels of benzyl alcohol were 0.61 to 1.378 mmol/L). Additional adverse reactions included gradual neurological deterioration, seizures, intracranial hemorrhage, hematologic abnormalities, skin breakdown, hepatic and renal failure, hypotension, bradycardia, and cardiovascular collapse. Preterm, low birth weight infants may be more likely to develop these reactions because they may be less able to metabolize benzyl alcohol. The minimum amount of benzyl alcohol at which serious adverse reactions may occur is not known [see Warnings and Precautions (5.9)].
Pediatric Patients with CKD
RETACRIT is indicated in pediatric patients, ages 1 month to 16 years of age, for the treatment of anemia associated with CKD requiring dialysis. Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients less than 1 month old have not been established [see Clinical Studies (14.1)].
Use of epoetin alfa products in pediatric patients with CKD not requiring dialysis is supported by efficacy in pediatric patients requiring dialysis. The mechanism of action of epoetin alfa products is the same for these two populations. Published literature also has reported the use of epoetin alfa in pediatric patients with CKD not requiring dialysis. Dose-dependent increases in hemoglobin and hematocrit were observed with reductions in transfusion requirements.
The safety data from the pediatric studies and postmarketing reports are similar to those obtained from the studies of epoetin alfa in adult patients with CKD [see Warnings and Precautions (5) and Adverse Reactions (6.1)]. Postmarketing reports do not indicate a difference in safety profiles in pediatric patients with CKD requiring dialysis and not requiring dialysis.
Pediatric Patients with Cancer on Chemotherapy
RETACRIT is indicated in patients 5 to 18 years old for the treatment of anemia due to concomitant myelosuppressive chemotherapy. Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients less than 5 years of age have not been established [see Clinical Studies (14.3)]. The safety data from these studies are similar to those obtained from the studies of epoetin alfa in adult patients with cancer [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1, 5.2) and Adverse Reactions (6.1)].
Pediatric Patients with HIV-Infection Receiving Zidovudine
Published literature has reported the use of epoetin alfa in 20 zidovudine-treated, anemic, pediatric patients with HIV-infection, ages 8 months to 17 years, treated with 50 to 400 Units/kg subcutaneously or intravenously 2 to 3 times per week. Increases in hemoglobin levels and in reticulocyte counts and decreases in or elimination of RBC transfusions were observed.
Pharmacokinetics in Neonates
Limited pharmacokinetic data from a study of 7 preterm, very low birth weight neonates and 10 healthy adults given intravenous erythropoietin suggested that distribution volume was approximately 1.5 to 2 times higher in the preterm neonates than in the healthy adults, and clearance was approximately 3 times higher in the preterm neonates than in the healthy adults.
8.5 Geriatric Use
Of the 4553 patients who received epoetin alfa in the 6 studies for treatment of anemia due to CKD not receiving dialysis, 2726 (60%) were age 65 years and over, while 1418 (31%) were 75 years and over. Of the 757 patients who received epoetin alfa in the 3 studies of CKD patients on dialysis, 361 (47%) were age 65 years and over, while 100 (13%) were 75 years and over. No differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between geriatric and younger patients. Dose selection and adjustment for an elderly patient should be individualized to achieve and maintain the target hemoglobin [see Dosage and Administration (2)].
Among 778 patients enrolled in the 3 clinical studies of epoetin alfa for the treatment of anemia due to concomitant chemotherapy, 419 received epoetin alfa and 359 received placebo. Of the 419 who received epoetin alfa, 247 (59%) were age 65 years and over, while 78 (19%) were 75 years and over. No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between geriatric and younger patients. The dose requirements for epoetin alfa in geriatric and younger patients within the 3 studies were similar.
Among 1731 patients enrolled in the 6 clinical studies of epoetin alfa for reduction of allogeneic RBC transfusions in patients undergoing elective surgery, 1085 received epoetin alfa and 646 received placebo or standard of care treatment. Of the 1085 patients who received epoetin alfa, 582 (54%) were age 65 years and over, while 245 (23%) were 75 years and over. No overall differences in safety or effectiveness were observed between geriatric and younger patients. The dose requirements for epoetin alfa in geriatric and younger patients within the 4 studies using the 3 times weekly schedule and 2 studies using the weekly schedule were similar.
Insufficient numbers of patients age 65 years or older were enrolled in clinical studies of epoetin alfa for the treatment of patients treated with zidovudine for HIV-infection to determine whether they respond differently from younger patients.