1. What is immunoglobulin (IgG)?
Immunoglobulins are proteins found in human blood. This protein is called an "antibody" and is an important part of the body's defense against disease. When the body is attacked by harmful bacteria or viruses, antibodies help fight these invaders. Immunoglobin can be referred to by a number of abbreviations, including IgG, IGG, IGIV and IVIG.
2. What is the purpose of immunoglobulin (IgG) therapy?
Immunoglobulin therapy is ordered by a physician when the patient's body does not produce enough of its own or a temporary boost in immunoglobulin is helpful in treating a specific disease. The therapy helps the body fight off infection and helps control the symptoms of many chronic diseases. Immunoglobulin therapy can be used to treat a wide variety of health conditions, but it is not a cure. Individuals who notice improvements in their health after receiving IgG often require additional treatments. Some individuals may need IgG replacement throughout their lifetime.
3. How is immunoglobulin (IgG) treatment given?
The earliest form of treatment, which began in the 1950s, used injections into the muscle. Injections are effective, but are not used as much today because they can be very painful. Since the 1970s immunoglobulin has been infused through a vein. A nurse or doctor must start an IV and infuse the IgG slowly, usually over several hours. The length of infusion depends on many factors, including the individual's specific condition, the amount prescribed, the rate (speed) and the person's response to the treatment.
4. What is subcutaneous treatment? When is it used?
For individuals with immune deficiencies, IgG may be infused just under the skin rather than into a vein. There are several advantages to subcutaneous administration. Individuals often report that it is less painful, experience fewer side effects and avoid frequent trips to the infusion center or physician office.
Patients are taught to do subcutaneous infusion independently at home. Unlike IVIG, subcutaneous administration is usually done weekly. The abbreviation for subcutaneous immunoglobulin is SCIG.
5. IVIG seems difficult to get. Is there a national shortage?
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that there is not a national shortage, ongoing changes within the plasma industry, brand changes by manufacturers and national reimbursement trends have made it much more difficult for all healthcare providers to obtain product. This is true of all FDA approved brands of IVIG. Read what the FDA says about the availability of IVIG at www.fda.gov. Fortunately, IgG America continues to access to all product brands and works diligently to keep physicians and patients informed regarding any anticipated changes in availability.
6. Is immunoglobulin (IgG) therapy safe?
All manufacturers of IgG are required to maintain strict safety standards. The techniques used in processing immunoglobulin have been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of viral infections. New safety processing methods continue to be developed. However, because IgG is made from human plasma, a blood product, the risk of infection cannot yet be completely eliminated. The FDA controls the manufacturing of IgG and has rated the risk of transmission by plasma-derived products to be extremely low. In fact, there have been no reports cases of diseases transmitted by IgG for more than a dozen years.
7. Does IgG have side effects?
Common side effects of IgG therapy may seem like the flu. The individual may have a headache, chills, fever, flushing, nausea and pain or aching. Fortunately, there are many simple things that can be done to reduce the risk of side effects. These include drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after the infusion, taking any pre-medications ordered by the physician and infusing the IgG slowly. At IgG America the nurse remains with the individual throughout the infusion and will help manage any side effects that may occur. Side effects are usually non-serious, temporary and easily treated with medications and rest.
8. Are there any serious risks with IgG therapy?
Serious reactions to IgG may include kidney failure, aseptic meningitis, anaphylaxis (serve allergic reaction) or blood clots or stroke. These serious reactions are extremely rare. To reduce the risk of a serious reaction, the IgG America pharmacist works closely with each patient’s physician to identify any medical problems, previous drug reactions or risk factors that the individual may have. The brand of IgG is selected only after all of these facts have been carefully analyzed. IgG America provides an emergency medication kit for all IgG infusions. This kit should be available to the nurse whenever the infusion is being given. It should not be thrown away. Please keep it in a safe place for future use.
9. Is IgG expensive? Do health insurance plans cover the use of IgG?
IgG is a very expensive therapy. The cost per treatment can be thousands of dollars, depending on the individual's weight, dose requirements, and brand of IgG selected. However, most health plans cover the cost of IgG. For more information, please see the Insurance & Reimbursement section of our Web site.
10. Where is IgG therapy given? Can it be done safely at home?
IgG can be administered in a medical facility such a hospital or outpatient center. It can also be given in a physician's office or at a patient’s home.
11. What advantage is there in using IgG America to receive this therapy?
Since 1999, IgG America has provided thousands of IgG treatments to patients across the United States. Since we focus only on immunoglobulins, we are specialists in providing IgG. Our office staff, as well as our clinical team, has advanced knowledge and skills in IgG therapy. We welcome the opportunity to explain the services we provide. If you have additional questions, please call us toll-free to discuss your specific needs 877.674.9700.