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Anemia medications: A list by anemia type

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List of medicationsAre iron supplements enough?Anemia causesSummary
Depending on the cause and symptoms of anemia, your healthcare professional may prescribe oral iron supplements like ferrous sulfate (Feosol) and folic acid (Folvite), or vitamin B12 injections like cyanocobalamin (Cobal).
Medically reviewed by Alisha D. Sellers, BS Pharmacy, PharmD
Written by Rashida Ruwa, RN
Updated on

Anemia is characterized by a decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin is the protein responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. 

Types of anemia include:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia: caused by inadequate iron levels, leading to reduced red blood cell production
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia: caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12, which is essential for red blood cell production
  • Folic acid deficiency anemia: caused by insufficient levels of folic acid, a vital nutrient required for red blood cell formation
  • Aplastic anemia: a rare condition where the bone marrow fails to produce enough new blood cells
  • Hemolytic anemia: red blood cell destruction rate higher than the replacement rate and often due to an underlying condition or autoimmune disorder

Depending on the type, anemia symptoms may include:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • shortness of breath 
  • pale skin and mucous membranes
  • dizziness 

While some types of anemia may be chronic and require ongoing management, others can be temporary and resolved with appropriate treatment.

Common anemia medications by type

Person checking bottles of supplements and medications for anemia.
Photography by d3sign/ Getty Images

The treatment for anemia depends on what’s causing it.

It can involve addressing any nutritional deficiencies, treating other underlying health conditions that may be causing it, or using medications to help make more red blood cells or improve hemoglobin levels. 

Doctors commonly prescribe the following medications for different types of anemia:

1. Iron deficiency anemia medications

Oral iron supplements or intravenous (IV) iron formulations help manage iron deficiency anemia effectively. These medications help replenish your body’s iron stores and stimulate the production of new red blood cells. 

Iron supplements are classified as iron salts. Commonly prescribed oral iron supplements include:

  • ferrous sulfate (Feosol)
  • ferrous fumarate (Femiron)
  • ferrous gluconate (Fergon)
  • ferocon

Additionally, when oral iron supplements may be ineffective or poorly tolerated, a doctor may opt to administer iron directly into the bloodstream via an IV catheter for rapid replenishment of iron stores. 

Commonly prescribed IV iron formulations may include:

Your healthcare professional may also suggest other supplements that may help your body better absorb iron.

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2. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia medications

A doctor may prescribe specific medications, such as vitamin B12 injections, to help manage vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. These medications, belonging to the class of vitamin supplements, aim to correct the deficiency and support the production of red blood cells. 

Commonly prescribed vitamin B12 injections may include:

3. Folic acid deficiency anemia medications

A doctor can effectively prescribe folic acid (Folvite) to help manage folic acid deficiency anemia. These supplements are classified as vitamin supplements, and they help restore your body’s folic acid levels and support the production of red blood cells. 

4. Aplastic anemia medications

Aplastic anemia is a rare disorder characterized by the failure of the bone marrow to produce enough red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Doctors often treat this condition with immunosuppressive therapy or bone marrow stimulants to help stimulate bone marrow function and enhance blood cell production. 

Immunosuppressive therapy uses medications that actively suppress your immune system’s activity, reducing the attack on bone marrow cells and stimulating blood cell production. 

Commonly prescribed immunosuppressants may include:

Another treatment option for aplastic anemia involves using bone marrow stimulants, which are hematopoietic growth factors that promote the production of blood cells. 

Epoetin alfa (Epogen) and darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp) are commonly prescribed bone marrow stimulants in the class of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents. These help stimulate the bone marrow to produce red blood cells in the body.

5. Hemolytic anemia medications

The treatment goal is to manage underlying causes of anemia, suppress the immune system, or support red blood cell production. Medications for hemolytic anemia may include corticosteroids and immunosuppressants.

Corticosteroids such as prednisone (Rayos) and dexamethasone (Decadron) suppress the immune response, reduce inflammation, and prevent the destruction of red blood cells.

Immunosuppressants such as rituximab (Rituxan) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) inhibit the immune response when an autoimmune disorder causes hemolytic anemia.

Are iron supplements enough to treat some types of anemia?

Iron supplements may effectively treat iron deficiency anemia by replenishing iron stores in your body. However, they may not be enough to treat other types of anemia caused by different underlying factors.

Therefore, sometimes a doctor may prescribe iron supplements with other medications like vitamin B12 injections or folic acid supplements, depending on the specific type of anemia and its cause. 

When taking iron supplements, following the recommended dosage a healthcare professional prescribes is highly advised. The dosage usually depends on your anemia’s severity and specific needs. Taking more iron than needed may lead to severe health challenges and toxicity.

Iron supplements may also cause side effects such as constipation, nausea, or stomach discomfort. To minimize these effects, your doctor may advise you to take them with food.

Causes of anemia

Various factors can lead to anemia, including:

  • nutritional deficiencies from your eating plan like iron or vitamin B12 deficiency
  • chronic conditions like kidney disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or cancer
  • certain medications and treatments like chemotherapy
  • excessive blood loss
  • infections like malaria
  • autoimmune disorders like autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • pregnancy
  • heavy menstrual flow


Anemia medications are essential for treating various types of anemia, including iron deficiency and autoimmune-related forms.

The correct anemia medication may help boost your body’s red blood cell production and relieve anemia symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and headaches. 

Only a health professional can accurately identify the cause of your anemia and develop the appropriate treatment plan.

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