ORLANDO – Transitioning patients with hemophilia from standard clotting factor concentrates to newer extended half-life products takes planning, education, and a little patience, but the payoff can be better hemostasis, a hemophilia treatment specialist said.
“Real-world experience shows us that you can maintain effective protection with less infusion with these new products, but we also know that each person should be evaluated individually when determining what their specific optimal treatment is,” said Jennifer Maahs, a hemophilia nurse practitioner at the Indiana Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center in Indianapolis.
Staff and patient education about the proper use of newer extended half-life (EHL) products is the key to success, she added in an oral session at the World Federation of Hemophilia World Congress.
The new EHL products allow for longer intervals between doses, especially with EHL recombinant factor IX used to treat hemophilia B. Prophylaxis with standard factor IX concentrates requires doses of 25-40 IU/kg twice weekly; in contrasts, EHL products can be given in various doses based on patient responses of either 50 IU/kg every 7 days, 100 IU/kg every 10 days, 25-40 IU/kg every 7 days, or 50-75 IU/kg every 14 days.
In general, the longer intervals between dosing occur in adults; young children tend to require more frequent dosing and have lower levels of factor recovery, she noted.
Her center currently has more than 100 patients maintained on prolonged half-life factor VIII and factor IX products.
“We have really learned a lot of lessons along the way, and we have had to modify our approach based on these lessons,” she said. “Each patient situation is unique, and everything needs to be individualized.”
Staff review the published literature to educate themselves on the EHL products and prepare answers to expected questions from patients. Ms. Maahs suggested identifying key staff who are best equipped to answer specific questions.
“From a patient standpoint, we’ve developed a patient notification letter, so for any new product that comes out – for example a new factor VIII product – the notification gets sent out factor VIII patients, and we do that for every new product that comes out,” she said.
Pharmacokinetic (PK) analyses may also be helpful in transitioning patients to EHL products.
To test patient responses to new products, her center tests patients for recovery from 15 minutes to 1 hour post-infusion, which will provide information about how the patient may respond to the product during a bleeding episode.
If the patient is on prophylaxis they will evaluate trough effectiveness to determine that patient’s responsiveness at the lowest level prior to the next infusion. Testing at other time points may be required based on the patient’s individual clinical history.
Center staff talk with each patient to discuss his needs and capabilities. If the patient is currently being managed with on-demand therapy, the talk may center on obstacles to utilization of prophylaxis and the patient’s desired infusion interval.
For patients currently on prophylaxis, they discuss the current regimen frequency and dose and assess how well it’s working. Staff members also provide information about alternative approaches to therapy, and ask patients specifically about their activity levels and dates of activity, compared with currently scheduled infusion days.
Patients are also educated about the reconstitution requirements for the new product, and are told to use up any remaining concentrates before switching over to the new product.
“As we move forward, within 2 to 4 weeks of starting a new therapy, we like to obtain a trough to see how their prophylaxis is working. At that time we ask how have you been doing on the new product, are you having any breakthrough bleeding, and how are you feeling about it,” Ms. Maahs said.
Weekly phone calls to the patient during the first month are also very helpful for reinforcing information about dosing regimens for bleeding episodes, reminding patients to call in if they experience a lead, and encouraging them to keep a treatment log. The phone call can also be helpful in identifying potential product-related reactions or other issues, she said.
“What’s the impact that we’ve seen? With factor IX, it has been really big. Previous on-demand patients have agreed that, ‘gosh, I’m infusing a couple of times a month anyway,’ so starting an every 14-day prophylactic regimen seems pretty reasonable,” she said.
“We’ve had infusion schedules in children change from twice weekly to once weekly and that has really decreased the burden of disease,” she added.
A few adults, however, have gone back to standard half-life products because of concerns that they would not be able to infuse when they thought they needed treatment, she noted.