Agammaglobulinemia Medication

Updated: Jul 08, 2019
  • Author: Donald A Person, MD, FAAP, FACR; Chief Editor: Harumi Jyonouchi, MD  more...
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Medication Summary

Replacement therapy with intravenous immunoglobulin in patients with primary immune deficiencies

The overall consensus among clinical immunologists is that a dose of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) of 400-600 mg/kg/mo or a dose that maintains trough serum IgG levels greater than 500 mg/dL is desirable. However, if lower respiratory infections continue to be a problem, increasing the trough level up to 1000 mg/dL is an option. [73]

Patients with X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) with meningoencephalitis require much higher doses (1 g/kg) and perhaps intrathecal therapy. Measurement of preinfusion (trough) serum IgG levels every 3 months until a steady state is achieved and then every 6 months if the patient is stable. It may be helpful in adjusting the dose of IVIG to achieve adequate serum levels. For persons who have a high catabolism of infused IgG, more frequent infusions (eg, every 2-3 wk) of smaller doses may maintain the serum level in the reference range. The rate of elimination of immunoglobulin (Ig)G may be higher during a period of active infection; measuring serum IgG levels and adjusting to higher dosages or shorter intervals may be required.

For replacement therapy for patients with primary immune deficiency, all brands of IVIG are probably equivalent, although differences in viral inactivation processes are observed (eg, solvent detergent vs pasteurization and liquid vs lyophilized). The choice of brands may depend on the hospital or home care formulary and the local availability and cost. The dose, manufacturer, and lot number should be recorded for each infusion in order to review for adverse events or other consequences.

Recording all side effects that occur during the infusion is crucial. Monitoring liver and renal function test results periodically, approximately 3-4 times yearly, is also recommended. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that, for patients at risk for renal failure (eg, those with preexisting renal insufficiency, diabetes, volume depletion, sepsis, paraproteinemia; those older than 65 y; those who use nephrotoxic drugs), recommended doses should not be exceeded and infusion rates and concentrations should be the minimum levels that are practicable.

The initial treatment should be administered under the close supervision of experienced personnel. The risk of adverse reactions in the initial treatment is high, especially in patients with infections and those who form immune complexes. In patients with active infection, infusion rates may need to be slower and the dose halved (ie, 200-300 mg/kg), with the remaining dose given the next day to achieve a full dose. Treatment should not be discontinued. After achieving normal serum IgG levels, adverse reactions are uncommon unless patients have active infections.

With the new generation of IVIG products, adverse effects are much reduced. Adverse effects include tachycardia, chest tightness, back pain, arthralgia, myalgia, hypertension or hypotension, headache, pruritus, rash, and low-grade fever. More serious reactions are dyspnea, nausea, vomiting, circulatory collapse, and loss of consciousness. Patients with more profound immunodeficiency or patients with active infections have more severe reactions.

Anticomplementary activity of IgG aggregates in the IVIG and the formation of immune complexes are thought to be related to the adverse reactions. The formation of oligomeric or polymeric IgG complexes that interact with Fc receptors and trigger the release of inflammatory mediators is another cause. Most adverse reactions are rate related. Slowing the infusion rate or discontinuing therapy until symptoms subside may diminish the reaction. Pretreatment with ibuprofen (5-10 mg/kg every 6-8 h), acetaminophen (15 mg/kg/dose), diphenhydramine (1 mg/kg/dose), and/or hydrocortisone (6 mg/kg/dose, maximum 100 mg) 1 hour before the infusion may prevent adverse reactions. In some patients with a history of severe side effects, analgesics and antihistamines may be repeated.

Acute renal failure is a rare but significant complication of IVIG treatment. Reports suggest that IVIG products using sucrose as a stabilizer may be associated with a greater risk for this renal complication. Acute tubular necrosis, vacuolar degeneration, and osmotic nephrosis are suggestive of osmotic injury to the proximal renal tubules. The infusion rate for sucrose-containing IVIG should not exceed 3 mg sucrose/kg/min. Risk factors for this adverse reaction include preexisting renal insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, dehydration, age older than 65 years, sepsis, paraproteinemia, and concomitant use of nephrotoxic agents. For patients at increased risk, monitoring BUN and creatinine levels before starting the treatment and prior to each infusion is necessary. If renal function deteriorates, the product should be discontinued.

IgE antibodies to IgA have been reported to cause severe transfusion reactions in IgA-deficient patients. True anaphylaxis has been reported in patients with selective IgA deficiency and common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) who developed IgE antibodies to IgA after treatment with Ig. In actual experience, however, this is very rare. In addition, this is not a problem for patients with XLA (Bruton disease) or severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Caution should be exercised in patients who are IgA deficient (< 7 mg/dL) and need IVIG because of IgG subclass deficiencies. IVIG preparations with very low concentrations of contaminating IgA are advised.

Subcutaneous immunoglobulin (SCIG) administration is also possible. The recommended dose is 100-200 mg/kg SC every week. The initial weekly SC dose can be calculated by multiplying the previous IVIG dose by 1.37 and then dividing that dose into weekly doses, based on the patient's previous IVIG treatment interval. For example, if IVIG dosage is 200 mg/kg every 3 weeks, multiply 200 mg/kg by 1.37 and then divide by 3 to get a calculated dose of 91 mg/kg SC every week. The calculated SCIG dose provides systemic exposure similar to that of the previous IVIG dose. SCIG dose should be initiated 1 week after the last IVIG dose. For SCIG administration, do not exceed 15 mL (3200 mg) per injection site, and the administration rate is not to exceed 20 mL/h per injection site.

In a review of 7 studies on SCIG, the incidence of infection was found to be inversely related to the trough serum IgG level. [74] Therefore, maintaining higher IgG levels may be beneficial but no given level was found to be adequate for all patients.

SCIG therapy has been widely used in Europe for a number of years and has been introduced to the United States in 2006 with a FDA-approved product. A cost comparison analysis was made in France between SCIG and IVIG. SCIG was found to be 25% less expensive.

Table 1. Immune Globulin, Intravenous [75, 76, 77, 78] (Open Table in a new window)


Manufacturing Process


Additives (IVIG products containing sucrose are more often associated with renal dysfunction, acute renal failure, and osmotic nephrosis, particularly with preexisting risk factors [eg, history of renal insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, age >65 y, dehydration, sepsis, paraproteinemia, nephrotoxic drugs].)

Parenteral Form and Final Concentrations

IgA Content (mcg/mL)

Carimune NF

(ZLB Behring)

Kistler-Nitschmann fractionation; pH 4 incubation, nanofiltration


6% solution: 10% sucrose, < 20 mg NaCl/g protein

Lyophilized powder 3%, 6%, 9%, 12%



(Grifols USA)

Cohn-Oncley fractionation, PEG precipitation, ion-exchange chromatography, pasteurization


Sucrose free, contains 5% D-sorbitol

Liquid 5%

< 50

Gammagard Liquid 10%

(Baxter Bioscience)

Cohn-Oncley cold ethanol fractionation, cation and anion exchange chromatography, solvent detergent treated, nanofiltration, low pH incubation


0.25M glycine

Ready-for-use liquid 10%


Gammar-P IV

(ZLB Behring)

Cohn-Oncley fraction II/III; ultrafiltration; pasteurization


5% solution: 5% sucrose, 3% albumin, 0.5% NaCl

Lyophilized powder 5%

< 20


(Talecris Biotherapeutics)

Cohn-Oncley fractionation, caprylate-chromatography purification, cloth and depth filtration, low pH incubation


Contains no sugar, contains glycine

Liquid 10%



(Bio Products)

Solvent/detergent treatment targeted to enveloped viruses; virus filtration using Pall Ultipor to remove small viruses including nonenveloped viruses; low pH incubation


Contains sorbitol (40 mg/mL); do not administer if fructose intolerant

Ready-for-use solution 5%

< 10

Iveegam EN

(Baxter Bioscience)

Cohn-Oncley fraction II/III; ultrafiltration; pasteurization


5% solution: 5% glucose, 0.3% NaCl

Lyophilized powder 5%

< 10

Polygam S/D

Gammagard S/D

(Baxter Bioscience for the American Red Cross)

Cohn-Oncley cold ethanol fractionation, followed by ultracentrafiltration and ion exchange chromatography; solvent detergent treated


5% solution: 0.3% albumin, 2.25% glycine, 2% glucose

Lyophilized powder 5%, 10%

< 1.6 (5% solution)


(Octapharma USA)

9/24/10: Withdrawn from market because of unexplained reports of thromboembolic events

Cohn-Oncley fraction II/III; ultrafiltration; low pH incubation; S/D treatment pasteurization


10% maltose

Liquid 5%



(Swiss Red Cross for the American Red Cross)

Kistler-Nitschmann fractionation; pH 4 incubation, trace pepsin, nanofiltration


Per gram of IgG: 1.67 g sucrose, < 20 mg NaCl

Lyophilized powder 3%, 6%, 9%, 12%



(CSL Behring)

pH 4 incubation; octanoic acid fractionation, depth filtration, and virus filtration


10% solution; Preservative-free, sucrose-free, and maltose-free

Ready-to-use solution 10%

< 25

Although IVIG has improved the patient's ability to handle infections, aggressive treatment for acute bacterial infections with specific antibiotics continues to be necessary. No difference in efficacy among the brands of IVIG is recognized. One review indicated that IVIG at a mean dose of 0.42 g/kg in 162 treatment years resulted in an infection rate similar to the general pediatric population. All 18 children in that study had normal growth patterns. Thus far, the possibility of other infectious agents, notably hepatitis C virus (HCV), has not been a problem in the newer preparations of IVIG, with the additional viral inactivations steps incorporated into the manufacturing processes.

Table 2. Immune Globulin, Subcutaneous (Open Table in a new window)


Manufacturing Process



Parenteral Form and Final Concentrations

IgA Content mcg/mL


(ZLB Behring)

Cold ethanol fractionation, pasteurization


2.25% glycine, 0.3% NaCl

Liquid 16% (160 mg/mL)

< 50 mcg/mL



Class Summary

Prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in immunodeficient patients is possible with passive immunization humanized mouse monoclonal IgG.

Palivizumab (Synagis)

A humanized mouse monoclonal IgG preparation specifically directed toward RSV.


Immune Globulin, Subcutaneous

Class Summary

Subcutaneous administration of immune globulin provides an alternative method of administration to intravenous in select patients.

Immune globulin, subcutaneous (Vivaglobin)

IgG antibodies that neutralize a wide variety of bacterial and viral agents. Neutralizes circulating myelin antibodies through anti-idiotypic antibodies; down-regulates proinflammatory cytokines, including INF-gamma; blocks Fc receptors on macrophages; suppresses inducer T and B cells and augments suppressor T cells; blocks complement cascade. Peak serum IgG levels are lower and trough IgG levels are higher than those achieved with IVIG. SC administration results in stable steady-state IgG levels when administered weekly. Available as a 160-mg/mL SC injectable.