If a person with a bleeding disorder is missing a factor protein in his or her blood, the obvious treatment is to put back what is missing. This treatment became available in the early 1970s. Drug companies take plasma from blood donors and remove the clotting factor proteins. This is called plasma-derived factor concentrate.
In the early 1990s, recombinant factor concentrate was introduced. It is not made from human blood. It uses animal cells to produce the factor proteins. Both plasma-derived and recombinant clotting factor proteins are freeze dried into a powder. The powder is called “factor concentrate” or, commonly, just “factor.” It is put into small glass bottles and marked with a dosage based on the amount of factor.
When a person needs to use the factor, sterile water is put in the bottle with the powder and mixed. When the powder has dissolved, it is injected into a vein. People who have to use factor often are taught to give it to themselves. They can treat themselves at home, school, work, or while traveling. They don’t have to go to the hospital every time they start bleeding.
Factor concentrate is the usual treatment for people with hemophilia and Type 2B and Type 3 VWD. It is also used to treat heavy bleeding and before surgery in some people with other types of VWD.
It is possible to have an allergic reaction to factor concentrate. Signs of an allergic reaction include hives, swelling, itching, and tightness of the chest. It is also possible to develop antibodies against the clotting factor in the concentrate. These antibodies are called inhibitors and they destroy clotting factor. If this happens, the factor concentrate will no longer work as well.
If you need to use factor concentrate, your bleeding disorder doctor will help you decide which brand is best for you. In each box of factor there are several pages of information. These are called the “package insert.” These are written directions for storing and using the factor. Because the directions may not be the same for different brands of factor, you should always read the package insert.
Factor has different brand names depending on which drug company made it. The factor package will show the brand name, the type of factor (factor VIII or AHF; factor IX; factor VIIa), the lot number, and the number of units of factor in the bottle.
All bottles of factor are marked with an expiration date. Factor should be used before this date. Factor that has reached its expiration date should not be used.
As a service, Hemophilia of Georgia's pharmacy provides factor and other clotting medicines to people in Georgia. The patient’s factor is shipped to his home. Insurance companies are billed directly for the products. Some funds are available to provide factor for Georgia residents who do not have insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.