Alemtuzumab Injection (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia) : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions & More
Alemtuzumab injection (Campath) is only available though a special restricted distribution program (Campath Distribution Program). In order to receive alemtuzumab injection (Campath) your doctor must be registered with the program, and follow the requirements. The Campath Distribution Program will ship the medication directly to the doctor, hospital, or pharmacy.
Alemtuzumab injection can cause a decrease in the number of blood cells made by the bone marrow. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: unusual bruising or bleeding, small reddish or purple blood spots on the body, pale skin, weakness or excessive tiredness. You will need to take extra precautions to avoid injury during your treatment because you can bleed a lot from minor cuts or scrapes. Brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush, use an electric razor if you shave, and avoid contact sports and other activities that can cause injury.
Alemtuzumab injection may lower your ability to fight infections and increase your risk of getting a serious or life-threatening infection. Call your doctor right away if you develop any signs of infection, such as fever, cough, sore throat, or a wound that is red, draining, or slowly healing.
You will need to take precautions to lower the risk of infection during your treatment with alemtuzumab injection. Your doctor will prescribe certain medications to prevent infection. You will need to take these medications during your treatment and for at least 2 months after your treatment. Take these medications exactly as directed. You should also wash your hands frequently and avoid people who have contagious infections like coughs and colds. If you need any type of blood transfusion during your treatment with alemtuzumab injection, you should only receive irradiated blood products (blood products that have been treated to prevent a certain serious reaction that can occur in people with weakened immune systems).
You may experience a serious or life-threatening reaction while receiving a dose of alemtuzumab injection. You will receive each dose of medicine at a medical facility and your doctor will monitor you closely while you are receiving the medicine. Your doctor will prescribe certain medications to prevent these reactions. You will take these medications shortly before each dose of alemtuzumab. Your doctor will start with a low dose of alemtuzumab and gradually increase it to allow your body to adjust to the medicine. If you experience any of the following symptoms during or after the infusion, tell your doctor immediately: fever; cold; nausea; vomiting hives; eruption; itching; difficulty breathing or swallowing; slow breathing; throat tightness; swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, lips, tongue, or throat; hoarseness; dizziness; daze; Fainting; fast or irregular heartbeat; or chest pain.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain tests during and after your treatment to check your body’s response to alemtuzumab injection.
Talk to your doctor about the risks of receiving alemtuzumab injection.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Alemtuzumab injection is used to treat B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (B-CLL; a slow-growing cancer in which too many white blood cells of a certain type build up in the body). Alemtuzumab is in a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies. It works by activating the immune system to destroy cancer cells.
Alemtuzumab is also available as an injection (Lemtrada) that is used to treat multiple sclerosis (a disease in which the nerves do not work properly; you may experience weakness, numbness, loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech, and bladder control). ). This monograph only provides information on alemtuzumab (Campath) injection for B-LLC. If you are receiving alemtuzumab for multiple sclerosis, read the monograph Alemtuzumab Injection (Multiple Sclerosis).
How should this medicine be used?
Alemtuzumab injection comes as a solution (liquid) that a doctor or nurse must inject intravenously (into a vein) for at least 2 hours in a hospital or doctor’s office. At first, alemtuzumab injection is usually given in doses that gradually increase over 3 to 7 days to allow the body to adjust to the medicine. Once the body has adjusted to the required dose of injectable alemtuzumab, the drug is usually given three times a week on alternate days (usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for up to 12 weeks.
The medicines you receive before each dose of alemtuzumab injection may make you sleepy. You will probably want to ask a family member or friend to come with you when you receive your medicine and take you home afterward.
Although your condition may improve as soon as 4 to 6 weeks after starting treatment with alemtuzumab injection, your treatment will likely last 12 weeks. Your doctor will decide whether to continue your treatment and may adjust your dose depending on how well the medicine works for you and what side effects you experience.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before receiving alemtuzumab injection,
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to alemtuzumab injection or any other medications.
- Tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take.
- Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any medical conditions.
- Tell your doctor if you or your partner are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. You will need to take a pregnancy test before starting treatment and use birth control to prevent pregnancy during your treatment and for 3 months after your final dose. If you become pregnant during your treatment with alemtuzumab injection, call your doctor immediately. Alemtuzumab can harm the fetus.
- Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. Do not breastfeed during treatment with alemtuzumab and for 3 months after the final dose.
- Do not receive any live vaccines during or shortly after your treatment with alemtuzumab injection without consulting your doctor. Women receiving alemtuzumab injection during pregnancy should speak with their pediatrician, as their baby may not be able to receive live vaccines for a certain period of time.
- You should know that this medicine can decrease fertility in men and women. Talk to your doctor about the risks of receiving alemtuzumab.
- If you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are receiving alemtuzumab injection.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Alemtuzumab injection may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- stomach pain
- loss of appetite
- mouth sores
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- muscle pain
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:
- drooping on one side of the face; sudden weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; or difficulty speaking or understanding
- swelling in legs and ankles, weight gain, fatigue. or foamy urine (may occur months or years after your final dose)
Alemtuzumab may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while receiving this medicine.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor can submit a report online to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or cannot wake up, immediately call 911 for emergency services.
Symptoms of overdose may include the following:
- tightening of the throat
- difficulty breathing
- decreased urination
- unusual bruising or bleeding
- reddish or purple spots on the skin
- pale skin
- excessive tiredness
- sore throat, fever, chills, and other signs of infection
- swelling of the eyes, face, mouth, throat, lips, or tongue
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- chest pain
What other information should I know?
Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about alemtuzumab injection.
It is important that you keep a written list of all prescription and over-the-counter (over-the-counter) medications you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should take this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you go into hospital. It is also important information to take with you in case of emergencies.
Disclaimer: We have made every effort to ensure that all information is factually accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a licensed health care professional’s choice of knowledge and expertise. You should always consult your doctor or other health care professional before taking any medication. The information given here is subject to change and it has not been used to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions or adverse effects. The lack of warning or other information for any drug does not indicate that the combination of medicine or medication is safe, effective or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.