Skip to main content


Interferon alfa-2a and alfa-2b


What are interferon alfa-2a and interferon alfa-2b?

Interferon alfa-2a (also known as Roferon-A®) and interferon alfa-2b (also known as Intron-A®) are used to treat some types of cancer and some infections. Both are colorless liquids that are injected under the skin or given by vein.

Interferon alfa-2a and interferon alfa-2b can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving these drugs. For 48 hours after one of these drugs is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.”

How to give interferon alfa-2a or alfa-2b under the skin

A nurse will teach you how to inject the medicine under the skin. Please refer to the handout “Do you know… How to give a subcutaneous injection” for details.


Your dose is ____________. The strength of your medicine is __________________. For each dose, draw ________________ ml into the syringe.


This medicine is available in many strengths. Always check to be sure that you receive the same strength of medicine each time you pick up a new supply. If the strength is different, then the amount of medicine you give will change. Talk to a nurse or pharmacist at St. Jude with questions about dosing if you receive a different strength of medicine.

How to store interferon alfa-2a and interferon alfa-2b

Sometimes, interferon comes as a liquid that is already in a vial. At other times, it is as a powder in a vial packaged in a box with a liquid. Both forms need to be stored in the refrigerator before use. You will add the liquid to the powder form in the vial. The nurse will show you how to do this. Withdraw your dose from the vial, and discard any medicine that remains in the vial.

Possible side effects of interferon alfa-2a and interferon alfa-2b


  • Pain, bruising, or swelling at the injection site
  • Flu-like symptoms that may occur include high fever, vomiting, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, and a tired feeling.

Later (usually more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood counts
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Feeling dizzy, confused, or very tired
  • Bloating and swelling (feeling puffy)
  • Temporary changes in liver function

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for interferon alfa-2a and interferon alfa-2b

  • Drink plenty of fluid while you are taking this medicine. Ask you doctor or nurse how much you should drink each day.
  • The doctor may give you Trilisate® (choline-mag salicylate) or Advil® (ibuprofen) to treat the flu-like symptoms. It is very important that you take this medicine 30 minutes before your injection of interferon.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).