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Alemtuzumab

Generic Name: alemtuzumab (AL em TOOZ ue mab)
Brand Name: Campath, Lemtrada

Medically reviewed on Mar 14, 2018

What is alemtuzumab?

See also: Aubagio

Alemtuzumab is an antibody made from animal DNA.

Alemtuzumab is used to treat chronic B-cell lymphocytic leukemia or relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.

Lemtrada is available only from a certified pharmacy under a special program.

Alemtuzumab may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Alemtuzumab can cause life-threatening side effects.

Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, blood in your urine or vomit, swelling in your feet, fever, swollen glands, muscle aches, diarrhea, or if you feel very weak or tired.

Some side effects may occur during the injection or shortly afterward. You will be watched closely for at least 2 hours after receiving alemtuzumab.

Alemtuzumab can have long lasting effects on your body. You may need medical tests for up to 4 years after you stop using alemtuzumab.

Before taking this medicine

You should not receive alemtuzumab if you are allergic to it. You should not be treated with Lemtrada if you have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • an active or recent infection;

  • kidney disease;

  • a thyroid disorder;

  • a bleeding or blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia; or

  • if you have received a vaccine in the past 6 weeks.

Alemtuzumab may cause other types of cancer, such as melanoma, thyroid cancer, or blood cancers. Ask your doctor about this risk.

Alemtuzumab may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 4 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

You should not breast-feed while using alemtuzumab.

How is alemtuzumab given?

Alemtuzumab is given as an infusion into a vein. How often you receive alemtuzumab will depend on why you are using alemtuzumab. Follow your doctor's instructions.

You may be given other medicines to help prevent certain side effects. Take these medicines for the full prescribed length of time.

You will be watched closely for at least 2 hours after receiving alemtuzumab, to make sure you do not have a serious reaction.

Alemtuzumab affects your immune system. You may get infections more easily, even serious or fatal infections. Your doctor will need to examine you on a regular basis.

Alemtuzumab can have long lasting effects on your body. You may need medical tests for up to 4 years after you stop using this medicine.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your alemtuzumab injection.

What happens if I overdose?

Since alemtuzumab is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid while receiving alemtuzumab?

Avoid foods that may be a source of Listeria infection, or heat them thoroughly before consuming. This includes deli meat, undercooked meat, seafood, poultry, unpasteurized dairy products, or soft cheeses.

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding or injury.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using alemtuzumab, or you could develop a serious infection. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), and zoster (shingles).

Alemtuzumab side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Some side effects may occur during the injection or shortly afterward. Tell your caregiver if you feel weak, dizzy, itchy, nauseated, chilled or feverish, or if you have chest tightness or trouble breathing.

Alemtuzumab can cause your immune system to attack cells and organs in your body. This can lead to life-threatening medical problems such as severe bleeding or kidney damage. Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • unusual bruising or bleeding;

  • blood in your urine;

  • swelling in your legs or feet; or

  • if you cough up blood.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • pain or swelling in your neck or throat, trouble swallowing;

  • a mole that has changed in size or color;

  • gallbladder symptoms--stomach pain, fever, nausea, vomiting;

  • lung problems--cough, wheezing, chest pain, feeling short of breath;

  • signs of infection--fever, swollen glands, muscle aches, weakness, pale or yellowed skin, diarrhea, dark colored urine, pain or burning when you urinate;

  • symptoms of herpes virus--cold sores around your mouth, skin sores or blisters, itching, tingling, burning pain in your thigh or lower back; or

  • thyroid problems--extreme tired feeling, nervousness, fast heartbeats, heavy sweating, constipation, weight gain or loss, swelling of your eyes, feeling cold.

Common side effects may include:

  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea;

  • infections;

  • headache, joint pain, back pain;

  • itching, rash, tingling;

  • dizziness, tiredness, sleep problems (insomnia);

  • vaginal itching or discharge;

  • stuffy nose, throat pain or itching, white patches in your mouth or throat; or

  • flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect alemtuzumab?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines. Some may affect alemtuzumab, especially:

  • drugs that weaken the immune system such as cancer medicine, or medicines to prevent organ transplant rejection.

This list is not complete. Other drugs may affect alemtuzumab, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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