Getting immunoglobulin therapy can be overwhelming at first. But, your CareTeam at CVS Specialty® and Coram® CVS Specialty Infusion Services (Coram) are here to support you and help make sense of it all.
Why do you need immunoglobulins (Igs)?
Igs, or antibodies, are a normal part of your immune system. It’s your immune system‘s job to get rid of anything in your body that should not be there ‒ like germs. Your body needs to fight off these foreign germs, so they don’t make you sick. One way the body protects you from germs is through Igs. When germs get into your body, your body makes Igs to find and kill them. If your immune system isn’t working the way it should, your body may not make enough Igs . Without enough Igs, you’re more likely to get an infection. Some people need more Ig if their immune system attacks their own body. In either case, you need more Ig than you can make.
What is an Ig therapy?
Ig therapy is a liquid medication made from antibodies. Antibodies are in the plasma part of blood. Thousands of healthy people donate plasma so Ig can be made. The donated plasma is filtered, purified and tested to make sure it’s safe. The medication gives you the Igs your body needs to help you stay healthy. Each Ig therapy only lasts a few weeks, so you’ll need to receive it regularly. Be sure to stick to your treatment schedule to help you stay well.
How are Igs given?
Intravenous (IV) immunoglobulin (IVIg) is given into your vein. It can also be given subcutaneously or under your skin – known as SCIg. You and your doctor will decide which way is best for you to get your Ig therapy.
For IVIg, you’ll have an IV line placed and a health care provider will give your infusions. Each infusion takes about three to six hours. Your IVIg dose and infusion time depends on your weight, your condition and how well you tolerate it.
With SCIg, you or your caregiver will likely learn to infuse the medication yourself. It’s given under your skin into a fatty area like your stomach or thigh. A SCIg infusion takes about an hour or two for all the Igs to get into your body. Then, the needles are taken out.
Where will I get my Ig infusions?
Ig therapy can be infused in several places depending on your needs. You might get your infusion in the hospital, your doctor’s office, a clinic, an ambulatory infusion suite or at home. You and your doctor can decide which place is best for you.
What are some of the possible side effects of Ig therapy?
Most people handle IVIg therapies well, but some side effects can happen. The most common side effect is headache. Other side effects include chills, fever, flushing, muscle aches or joint pains, feeling tired, nausea, vomiting and allergic-type reactions. Serious reactions are rare, but they can happen. Get medical help right away if you have serious reactions like hives, a tight feeling in your chest or trouble breathing.
Side effects with SCIg treatments are usually milder. You may notice redness, swelling or itchiness where the needles go in. You may also feel a hard lump that lasts a day or two. Most of the time, your skin gets used to the medication within a few months. This means and you’re less likely to have side effects.
Learn more about side effects of Ig therapy and how to manage them.
Are there different Ig medications?
Yes. There are several brands of Ig therapy made by different companies. Each brand can vary a bit, but the Ig medications all do the same job. Some people have different reactions to different brands, so your doctor will try to give you the same brand each time. In some cases, you may need to change to a different Ig medication. This can happen if there’s a shortage of drugs, or if your insurance company changes your coverage. That’s okay. You may have some side effects when you start your new brand, but you’ll be closely monitored for them.
How will I feel after my Ig therapy?
Most people feel very well soon after their Ig therapy. That’s when you have the most Ig in your body. Over time, your body uses up the Ig. So, you may feel more weak or tired as you get close to the time for your next dose. You and your doctor will decide the right treatment schedule to fit your needs.
CVS Specialty® and Coram® CVS Specialty Infusion Services (Coram) work together to dispense and administer Ig therapy to patients. To learn more about how Coram is keeping you safe and healthy at home during infusion treatments, click here.