What is Immunoglobulin replacement therapy (IRT)

Immunoglobulins (also known as antibodies) are produced by the immune system to fight a specific infection. The immune system makes different types of antibodies to fight different types of germs to stop us from getting sick.

Antibodies are an important part of the body’s defence against both bacteria and viruses. In most PIDs the body fails to produce enough antibodies or it produces none at all.

Immunoglobulin replacement therapy (IRT) is the name of the treatment given to the majority of people with Primary Immune Deficiencies (PID). This replaces their antibody levels so they are more able to fight viruses and infections.

Immunoglobulin used in IRT comes from blood donated by healthy blood donors. The protection provided by the IRT could be described as throwing a blanket over the immune system of the person with PID, it provides protection from infections. IRT is a treatment but not a cure. Patients need to have it on an ongoing basis, as antibodies need to be replaced regularly

There are two main forms of IRT, named according to how they are administered.

Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIg)

  • Given intravenously through a vein into the blood
  • Most often given in a hospital day unit by a Registered Nurse or Doctor
  • Most people have IVIg every 3 to 4 weeks. The dose is calculated on the person’s weight and immunoglobulin levels, along with how well they are when on IRT

Subcutaneous Immunoglobulin (SCIg)

  • Slowly infusing concentrated immunoglobulin under the skin
  • Can be done at home by the person with the PID, or by their carer after being trained in the process by a nurse or doctor
  • Usually given weekly depending on the dose, immunoglobulin levels and how well the person is

Advocacy for you

Most people with PID will automatically be told that they qualify for IVIg, but may not be aware that they might also qualify for SCIg.

AusPIPS is committed to seeing everyone who qualifies for Immunoglobulin infusions able to choose IVIg or SCIg in Australia. However, it is important that they are capable of treating themselves, or their carer can treat them.

Enabling this choice is important, given that Australian research indicates that 77% of people with PID would choose home based treatment. This would result in large financial savings to state health budgets, along with freed up hospital resources.

The pros of SCIg include IgG antibody trough levels will stay higher, resulting in fewer breakthrough infections and the need for extra admissions into hospital for IV antibiotics, ending in a better quality of life for many patients.

If you qualify for SCIg but are unable to access it, please contact us to see if we can help you gain access.