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How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Verteporfin belongs to the class of medications called photosensitizing agents. It is used to treat "wet" age-related macular degeneration (AMD), pathologic myopia (a severe form of nearsightedness), and presumed ocular histoplasmosis (a fungal infection of the eye).

In these conditions, vision loss occurs when damage in the macula (centre of the retina) is caused by choroidal neovascularization (CNV), which is an ingrowth of abnormal blood vessels. These blood vessels leak blood and fluids, which causes scarring. Verteporfin is used to treat the predominantly classic form of CNV, where the leakage occurs rapidly. When activated by light, verteporfin works to destroy the abnormal blood vessels growing in the macula.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are being given this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop receiving this medication without consulting your doctor.

How should I use this medication?

The recommended dose is based on body surface area and will be determined by the doctor.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are using the medication without consulting your doctor.

Verteporfin is injected by intravenous (into a vein) infusion, usually in the arm, where the medication is given over a 10-minute period. This medication is given by a health care professional. After a few minutes, the doctor shines a light (laser) on the eye, where the medication has traveled to the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. This light activates verteporfin to start working.

It is important that this medication be given exactly as recommended by your doctor. If you miss an appointment to receive verteporfin, contact your doctor as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment.

This medication is stored at room temperature and protected from light.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each vial of dark green to black lyophilized cake contains 15 mg of verteporfin. After reconstitution, each mL of solution for intravenous use contains verteporfin 2 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: ascorbyl palmitate, butylated hydroxytoluene, dimyristoyl phosphatidylcholine, egg phosphatidylglycerol, and lactose.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not use this medication if you:

  • are allergic to verteporfin or any ingredients of this medication
  • have porphyria
  • have severe liver dysfunction
What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who uses this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people using this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • back pain (temporary)
  • chest pain (temporary)
  • constipation
  • decrease in pain or touch sensitivity
  • dry, itchy, or painful eyes
  • injection site reactions such as pain, redness, swelling, bleeding, discoloration, or rash
  • light sensitivity
  • nausea
  • weakness

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • appearance of light flashes or floaters
  • blurred vision
  • decrease in sharpness of vision
  • increased blood pressure

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • seizures
  • severe decrease in vision (often sudden)
  • signs of an allergic reaction (e.g., difficulty breathing; hives; swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are using this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Liver function: Verteporfin may not clear from the body at the expected rate in cases where the liver is not working properly. This increases the risk of experiencing side effects. If you have moderate liver dysfunction, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Photosensitivity: Verteporfin can make you more sensitive to light. Avoid exposure of skin or eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for 2 days after receiving verteporfin. This includes tanning salons, bright halogen lighting, high power lighting (such as those used in dental offices), and light-emitting medical devices.

Exposure to light can cause pain, inflammation, swelling, or discoloration at the injection site. Some people may also develop a rash. If you are going outside, wear protective clothing and dark sunglasses. Sunscreens with ultraviolet protection will not protect against this type of light sensitivity. You may be given a wristband to remind yourself and others that you are light sensitive.

You should not stay in the dark; in fact, you should expose your skin to ambient indoor lighting, since this will help inactivate the medication in the skin through a process called photo bleaching.

Surgery: Bright lights such as those used in operating rooms and dentist's offices can activate verteporfin. If you are scheduled for surgery or have a dental appointment soon after a treatment with verteporfin, let your doctor or dentist know that you have received this medication.

Vision: You may experience temporary changes in vision that may affect your ability to drive or use machines. Do not perform these tasks until you determine you can do them safely without any impaired vision. Verteporfin can also make eyes more sensitive to light (see "Photosensitivity" above).

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and taking verteporfin, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding. You should stop breast-feeding for 96 hours (4 days) after receiving verteporfin.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

For a full list of interactions, use the Drug Interaction Checker available on the Drugs.com website.

If you are taking other medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.

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