Neupogen and Neulasta are incredibly similar drugs, although they are not quite the same. Which one is best depends on the patient. So, what should patients know about these two medications so they can discuss their options with a doctor?
Neupogen is the trade name of filgrastim. Amgen, Inc. produces this drug.
Filgrastim helps people produce neutrophils (granulocytes), a type of white blood cell, after chemotherapy. This increase in neutrophils helps boost cancer patients’ immune systems so that they can fight complications like febrile neutropenia.
Neulasta is the trade name of pegfilgrastim, a PEGylated version of filgrastim. Amgen manufactures this medication.
Like Neupogen, Neulasta also helps cancer patients boost their granulocyte count so that they can better stave off serious complications of chemotherapy, like febrile neutropenia. However, thanks to PEGylation, this medication has a much longer half-life than Neupogen. The result? Neulasta can deliver similar results over a longer period of time, negating the need for multiple shots.
Neupogen vs Neulasta – What is the Difference?
Clearly, these two medications are similar, treating the same condition and working in nearly identical ways. So, just what is the difference between Neulasta and Neupogen?
It all comes down to the fact that Neulasta is PEGylated, which means that a polyethylene glycol (PEG) polymer chain is attached to filgrastim. To illustrate, the molecular formula of filgrastim is C845H1343N223O243S9 while the formula of pegfilgrastim is C845H1343N223O243S9 + PEG. Manufacturers add PEG to filgrastim so that the body clears this medication much more slowly. This slower clearance is beneficial for cancer patients because it means they need to receive fewer shots of Neulasta than they do Neupogen.
Costs between these two medications vary as well. A single 6 mg shot of Neulasta, for example, can cost around $5,000 to $7,000. By contrast, a 300 μg shot of Neupogen costs just $300 to $350, on average. It’s important to remember, though, that most people only require a single shot of Neulasta every chemotherapy cycle. In contrast, patients may need anywhere from 3 to 10 shots of Neupogen; it ultimately depends on how many daily shots it takes to bring a patient’s granulocyte count to normal. Prices can also vary based on insurance and rebates.
At the end of the day, both Neulasta and Neupogen are incredibly similar. The primary differences between the two are costs and the fact that Neulasta shots last longer than Neupogen ones do.