This material was developed independently through an unrestricted educational grant from Trimeris.
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Fuzeon is an injectable medication that must be taken twice a day, morning and evening. While Fuzeon is the first anti-HIV drug that is taken as an injection, there are many other meds that require self-injections that you may be familiar with. These include Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a, a hepatitis C treatment), Serostim (somatropin, a wasting treatment), Procrit (epoetin alfa, an anemia treatment) and testosterone, among others. If you're taking any of these medications, self-injection probably won't be a problem for you. But if you're a first-timer, it may take some time to get over the fear and anxiety of sticking yourself with a needle.
The good news is that Fuzeon is injected under your skin (subcutaneously), into the fatty layer beneath the surface. This is not a deep injection. In fact, the needle is only ½-inch long and isn't inserted all the way. Fuzeon is not injected directly into your veins (intravenously) or into your muscle (intramuscularly) like some other injectable drugs. Subcutaneous injections are easier and less painful than those kinds of injections.
Read through this section and you'll find many tips that will help you get used to the idea of injecting a drug. It may also help to browse through our section of personal accounts to read about how others have handled this.
Why Does Fuzeon Have to Be Injected?
The active ingredient contained in Fuzeon is a protein. Protein-based drugs are ineffective when taken orally because they won't survive the trip from your stomach to your bloodstream. They would be digested just like the food you eat. Fuzeon must be injected just under the skin (subcutaneously) twice a day to do its job in fighting HIV.
Make sure your doctor or nurse teaches you how to find the correct sites on your body for injecting Fuzeon. The sites for injection are the abdomen, upper thighs or upper arms. There is enough fatty tissue under the skin in these areas to allow you to pinch enough skin to give the injection correctly. You will receive Fuzeon in a 30-day kit with everything you need for your injections.
What About Injection Site Reactions?
Almost all people taking Fuzeon get injection site reactions at some point. They are usually mild to moderate, but occasionally may be severe. Injection site reactions include redness, itching and swelling. You may also feel pain, tenderness, hardened skin or bumps around the area you have injected, although each reaction usually lasts less than seven days. With two injections each day, people using Fuzeon might have reactions at several spots on their body at the same time. However, few patients have stopped using Fuzeon because of site reactions.
Example of an injection site reaction
While you can expect to experience site reactions, there are many simple steps you can take to lessen their occurrence and their severity. Read ten tips on injecting Fuzeon for help.
You're Not Alone
You may not know this, but each year, millions of people must use self-injectable drugs as part of their medication therapy. These drugs are generally used to treat serious or life-threatening conditions such as:
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Growth hormone deficiency
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Thanks to advances in drug technology, many people are now able to self-inject their meds in the privacy and comfort of their own home. Most would agree that this is much easier and more convenient than making weekly -- or even more frequent -- trips to their doctor's office for treatment.
When the goal is to improve one's health, almost anyone can overcome his or her fear of needles and become comfortable with self-injecting meds. Would it surprise you to learn that thousands of kids have to inject their medications every day? For instance, many kids with type 1 diabetes must inject themselves with insulin several times a day.
Although it will definitely take getting used to, with the support of your healthcare providers and those around you -- and by following the tips and tricks that others have used successfully -- you can lay your fear of injections to rest.
Fear of Triggering a Relapse
Former injection drug users in recovery may have a special reason to fear needles: the very real concern that self-injecting meds could be a potential trigger for relapse. This is something that you should discuss with your doctor, as there are ways for HIVers in recovery to get around their needle fears. There may also be a support group in your area where you can meet others in your situation.
One possible solution is to have a family member or caregiver inject your meds for you. They can learn how to help you inject by reading through the injection guidelines. Just make sure that they know how to protect themselves from contact with blood. If you do have someone who will be helping you inject, please have them read Injection Instructions (PDF).