Health Guide

Porfimer (By injection)

Porfimer (POR-fi-mer)

Treats problems in the esophagus or lungs, including cancer and Barrett esophagus. This medicine is always used with laser light therapy (photodynamic therapy).

Brand Name(s):


There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. You should not receive this medicine if you had an allergic reaction to porfimer, or if you have porphyria.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Your doctor will prescribe your dose and schedule. This medicine is given through a needle placed in a vein.
  • A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
  • You must receive laser light therapy 40 to 50 hours after you receive your dose of porfimer. The laser light will cause changes in the medicine so the medicine will work. The laser creates red light, not heat, so you should not feel any burning.
  • Missed dose: It is very important that you receive this medicine at the correct time. Call your doctor or treatment clinic for instructions if you must miss a dose.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Other foods and drugs may affect how porfimer works. Tell your doctor if you also use other medicine that could make you sensitive to light, such as an antibiotic, diabetes medicine, or diuretic (water pill).
  • If you also need radiation treatment, wait 2 to 4 weeks between phototherapy and radiation therapy.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, heart or blood vessel disease, or recent surgery. Also tell your doctor about all other lung, throat, or digestion problems you have.
  • This medicine will make your skin and eyes more sensitive to light. Avoid sunlight and bright lights, even when you are indoors. Sunscreen or sunblock will not protect you. Care for your skin by wearing protective clothing when you go outside. Cover windows and skylights with shades. Follow all of your doctor's directions about how to protect your skin and eyes.
  • Less bright indoor light should not bother you. Some indoor light will be good, because it will help clear this medicine from your body faster.
  • Your eyes and the skin around your eyes may be more sensitive than the rest of your skin. Wear dark sunglasses when you go outside. Bright headlights could also bother you, so be careful when you drive.
  • You will probably be sensitive to light for at least 30 days. You might be sensitive for 90 days or longer, especially if you have kidney or liver problems.
  • Test your skin after 30 days to find out if you are still sensitive to sunlight. Expose a small part of your skin to direct sunlight for 10 minutes. You are still sensitive if you have redness, swelling, or blisters within 24 hours. Keep protecting your skin for another 2 weeks if you have a reaction, and then try the test again. If you do not have a reaction within 24 hours, then you can gradually start being in the light again.
  • This medicine may cause the following problems:
    • Chest pain
    • Swelling or narrow places in your throat
    • Blood clots
    • Anemia
    • Mucus or other problems that cause trouble breathing
  • This medicine by itself will not help your lungs or esophagus. You must also receive light therapy 40 to 50 hours after you receive this medicine.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • New or unexplained chest pain
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of your body, sudden or severe headache, problems with vision, speech, or walking
  • Pain, itching, burning, or swelling where the needle was placed
  • Severe skin blisters, burning, itching, peeling, or redness
  • Severe stomach pain, red or black, tarry stools
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble swallowing

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Back pain
  • Constipation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Low fever
  • Trouble sleeping

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 7/4/2018
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