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Is Mavenclad a chemotherapy drug?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on Sep 14, 2023.

Official answer


No, Mavenclad is not a chemotherapy (cancer) drug. It is an oral purine antimetabolite approved for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), to include relapsing-remitting disease and active secondary progressive disease, in adults. Mavenclad tablets are taken by mouth and are given as two yearly treatment courses.

Mavenclad is not recommended for MS patients with clinically isolated syndrome or as a first-line agent due to its safety profile.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune disease of the nervous system that alters signals between the brain and other parts of the body. Symptoms of MS typically first appear in patients between 20 and 40 years of age.

How does Mavenclad work?

Mavenclad (cladribine) is thought to work by selectively targeting B and T lymphocytes (types of white blood cells) that may be involved in the disease process of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).

  • Mavenclad temporarily lowers the number of these white blood cells in your body to help decrease the number of MS relapses and reduce the progression to disability.
  • After receiving Mavenclad, your white blood cells should recover over several months or longer.
  • Lowered white blood cells can increase your risk for infections. Your doctor will monitor your health and white blood cell counts before, during and after treatment, and as needed.

Treatment with Mavenclad may increase your risk of developing cancer. Talk to your doctor about this risk before you start treatment. Follow your healthcare provider instructions about cancer screenings you need to schedule.

You should not take Mavenclad if you

  • have cancer (a malignancy)
  • are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are a woman of childbearing age or a man able to father a child and you are not using birth control. Mavenclad may cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.
  • are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive
  • have active infections, including tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis B or C
  • are allergic to cladribine
  • are breastfeeding

Learn More: Mavenclad Dosing and Side Effects (in detail)

Related questions

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy (“chemo”) is used in the treatment of cancer and kills rapidly dividing cancer cells directly. Chemotherapy can be used with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation or immunotherapy.

Some drugs used for chemotherapy are also classified as purine antimetabolites. For example, mercaptopurine is used to treat the blood cancer leukemia.

Azathioprine is also a purine antimetabolite, but it is used to help prevent kidney transplant rejections and in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

This is not all the information you need to know about Mavenclad (cladribine) for safe and effective use and does not take the place of talking to your doctor about your treatment. Review the full Mavenclad information here, and discuss this information and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.


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