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Hematopoietic Stimulants

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
filgrastim Neupogen
pegfilgrastim Neulasta
Generic Name Brand Name
sargramostim Leukine
tbo-filgrastim Neutroval

Hematopoietic stimulants are called granulocyte colony stimulating factors (G-CSF) or granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factors (GM-CSF). They are most often given as shots under your skin.

How It Works

Hematopoietic stimulants are the man-made form of something that is produced naturally by your body. These drugs help your bone marrow make new white blood cells.

Why It Is Used

When you have chemotherapy for cancer, it kills the cells in your bone marrow. Hematopoietic stimulants help your bone marrow make new white blood cells. You need white blood cells to prevent or fight infection while you are being treated with chemotherapy.

Clinical trials are testing hematopoietic stimulants to see if they help people with some types of cancer. They work by stimulating the immune system.

How Well It Works

Hematopoietic stimulants help your body make new white blood cells and help prevent infection after chemotherapy. Preventing infection is an important part of cancer treatment. It may make it less likely that you will have severe complications or need to be hospitalized.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Symptoms of an allergic reaction:
    • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
    • Shortness of breath
    • A fast pulse
    • Sweating
    • Hives

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder. You may have a ruptured spleen.
  • Redness, swelling, or pain at the place where this medicine was injected.
  • Fever.
  • Chest pain.
  • Skin sores.
  • Swelling of your lower legs or swollen feet.
  • Sickle cell disease and are having symptoms of a crisis, such as pain or difficulty breathing.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Temporary bone and muscle aches.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Most people have few problems with hematopoietic stimulants.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
Last Revised December 14, 2012

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