porfimer

Pronunciation: POR fi mer

Brand: Photofrin

What is the most important information I should know about porfimer?

You should not receive this medicine if you have porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system), esophageal bleeding, a fistula (abnormal passageway) in the throat or esophagus, or a tumor that affects a large blood vessel.

What is porfimer?

Porfimer is used together with "photodynamic" laser light therapy to reduce the size of tumors in the lungs or esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and stomach).

Porfimer may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before receiving porfimer?

You should not receive porfimer if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • porphyria (a genetic enzyme disorder that causes symptoms affecting the skin or nervous system);
  • a fistula (abnormal passageway) in the throat or esophagus;
  • esophageal bleeding; or
  • a tumor that affects a large blood vessel.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • heart disease;
  • liver or kidney disease;
  • late-stage cancer;
  • a stroke or blood clot; or
  • if you are receiving radiation treatment.

You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment.

Both men and women using this medicine should use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy. Porfimer can harm an unborn baby if the mother or father is using this medicine.

Keep using birth control for at least 5 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is using porfimer.

Do not breastfeed while using this medicine, and for at least 5 months after your last dose.

How is porfimer given?

Porfimer is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when porfimer is injected.

You will receive laser light treatment within 40 to 50 hours after your porfimer infusion. A second laser light treatment may be given within 96 to 120 hours after your infusion.

Porfimer will make your skin and eyes more sensitive to sunlight. For at least 30 days after you are treated with porfimer, you must protect your eyes and skin from natural sunlight and bright indoor lights (such as lights in a doctor's office, operating room lamps, tanning beds, bright halogen lights, or unshaded light bulbs).

Keep all parts of your skin covered with clothing and wear dark sunglasses when you are outdoors. Sunscreen will not protect you from severe sunburn during the 30-day period after your treatment with porfimer.

Your sensitivity to light may last for up to 90 days or longer. Ask your doctor to determine if your skin is still sensitive to sunlight.

  • Expose a small area of skin to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for about 10 minutes.
  • Do not use the skin on your face or around your eyes to test for light sensitivity.
  • If the exposed skin develops redness, swelling, or blistering within 24 hours, wait another 2 weeks before testing again.
  • Test your skin again if your sunlight exposure will increase due to travel or relocation within 90 days after you receive porfimer.

Exposure to sunlight shining through a window is not as harmful and can help your body eliminate porfimer. Follow your doctor's instructions about the best amount of light exposure.

You may need frequent medical tests or a biopsy every 3 months.

If you need major surgery or will be on long-term bed rest, you may need to stop using this medicine for a short time. Any doctor or surgeon who treats you should know that you are being treated with porfimer.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your laser light therapy. The timing between your porfimer injection and your light therapy is important for the treatment to be effective.

What happens if I overdose?

Since this medication is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid after receiving porfimer?

Avoid exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights for at least 90 days after you are treated with porfimer.

Porfimer may cause your eyes to be more sensitive to oncoming headlights while you are driving. Avoid driving at night until this effect wears off.

What are the possible side effects of porfimer?

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fever, chills, chest pain;
  • if you feel very thirsty or hot, are unable to urinate, and have heavy sweating or hot and dry skin;
  • low red blood cells (anemia) --pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet;
  • fluid build-up in or around the lungs --pain when you breathe, feeling short of breath while lying down, wheezing, gasping for breath, cough with foamy mucus, cold and clammy skin, anxiety, rapid heartbeats;
  • signs of stomach bleeding --bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; or
  • signs of a stroke --sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, slurred speech, problems with vision or balance.

Common side effects may include:

  • chest pain, breathing problems, fluid around your lungs;
  • fever, sore throat, cough;
  • anemia;
  • being more sensitive to light;
  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, constipation;
  • trouble swallowing, coughing up blood;
  • pain, back pain;
  • sleep problems (insomnia); or
  • dehydration.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect porfimer?

Porfimer can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. This effect may be increased when you also use certain other medicines, including: antibiotics, heart or blood pressure medication, certain anti-psychotic medication, or medicine to control severe nausea and vomiting.

Other drugs may affect porfimer, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about porfimer.

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