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Does Gilenya suppress the immune system?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on July 6, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com
  • Yes, Gilenya does suppress the immune system.
  • Gilenya will reduce a person's ability to fight an infection. This ability will be further compromised if the person is also taking other drugs that suppress the immune system.
  • This immune-suppressing effect will persist for up to two months after stopping Gilenya treatment.
  • Gilenya blocks the movement of lymphocytes (a type of immune cell) from the lymph nodes into the bloodstream. This reduces nerve inflammation and subsequent damage.

Gilenya (fingolimod) is an immunosuppressant that may be used for the treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in adults, and children and adolescents aged 10 years and older.

Because Gilenya suppresses the immune system, a person’s ability to fight infection will be diminished. If a person is also taking chemotherapy agents, immune-modulating therapies, or other immunosuppressants, these will have additive effects, further decreasing the ability of the immune system to respond to infection. Gilenya will also reduce the immune response to live vaccines, such as MMR and chickenpox vaccines.

Because Gilenya lasts in the blood for a long time, and lymphocyte counts take 1 to 2 months to return to baseline after stopping therapy, a person’s immune system will remain compromised for up to two months after stopping Gilenya treatment.

Gilenya is known as a disease-modifying drug and it reduces the number of relapses of multiple sclerosis (MS) by about half (50%). Any relapses that do happen should be less severe. It takes approximately two weeks of dosing for Gilenya to reach its maximum effect, which is a lymphocyte count of 30% of baseline or around 500cells/mcL.

How does Gilenya work?

Gilenya works by blocking the migration of lymphocytes (a type of immune cell) from the lymph nodes into the bloodstream.

Although it is not exactly known how Gilenya exerts its effects in multiple sclerosis it may be due to a decrease in the migration of lymphocytes into the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). This reduces nerve inflammation and damage.

Gilenya will not cure MS, it will only decrease the frequency of relapse symptoms.

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