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Intravenous and subcutaneous immunoglobulin G replacement therapy

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Human polyclonal immunoglobulin G (IgG) for therapeutic use has been available for decades. This drug was developed for treatment of antibody deficiency (replacement therapy), although its use has expanded into many anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory applications in recent years. This review focuses on IgG prescribing for replacement therapy. IgG for replacement is most often administered via the intravenous IgG (IVIG) or subcutaneous IgG (SCIG) routes. IVIG is usually administered every 3‐4 weeks, and SCIG is usually administered weekly, although variations may be considered in all cases. Recently, a new product became available that uses hyaluronidase to facilitate absorption of large doses of SCIG less frequently (every 3‐4 weeks, as with IVIG). There are important differences between the pharmacokinetics of these three routes of administration. IVIG therapy leads to high peaks and low troughs between infusions. IgG concentration fluctuates much less over time with SCIG. Hyaluronidase-facilitated SCIG is intermediate. SCIG may have lower bioavailability in comparison with IVIG and may require higher doses over time; this is not true for hyaluronidase SCIG. However, there are large variations in IgG half-life among individuals and with different products. Therefore, individualization of therapy is essential. Mild systemic “flu-like” adverse effects may affect up to 20‐25% of patients who receive IVIG, smaller fractions may experience more-severe symptoms, whereas anaphylaxis is exceedingly rare. General flu-like systemic adverse effects are minimal with SCIG (intermediate with hyaluronidase SCIG), but transient (24 hours), mild, local inflammatory symptoms at infusion sites are relatively common with both forms. Additional rare but important complications of IgG therapy include thrombotic events and hemolysis that can be seen at high doses with any route of administration. Renal adverse effects may occur with IVIG as well. The variety of IgG products and routes of administration available today creates many opportunities for physicians to work with patients to find the optimal therapy for all.
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Keywords: Half-life; IV IgG; IgA; IgM; immunodeficiency; replacement therapy; subcutaneous IgG

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Clinical Immunology Program, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2016

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  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

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    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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