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Alemtuzumab is a type of medicine known as a monoclonal antibody, a substance that helps target and fight specific disease-causing molecules. It is primarily used to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Alemtuzumab is administered to patients through intravenous (IV) infusion at doctor's offices, clinics or hospitals. Numerous side effects are associated with this medication, and some groups of people shouldn't be treated with alemtuzumab at all.
Doctors usually prescribe alemtuzumab for CLL patients only after other leukemia treatments haven't worked, because of the risks associated with this medication. IV infusions with alemtuzumab might take two hours, and the patient is closely monitored by a healthcare provider for adverse reactions that might occur during the procedure. Though this drug is prescribed primarily for CLL, studies have shown that it might also prove useful in the treatment of other blood disorders.
Like similar cancer treatments, including tyrosine kinases inhibitors, alemtuzumab can weaken a patient's immune system, making him or her vulnerable to infection. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics in conjunction with the medication. Side effects include low blood pressure, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and fever. Sometimes patients experience headaches and difficulty sleeping.
Some of the most serious side effects associated with this medication come as a result of reduced capacity of the bone marrow to produce blood cells. Patients must contact their doctors immediately if they notice easy bleeding and bruising, pale skin or unexplained red and purple spots on their bodies. Patients taking alemtuzumab must be careful to avoid injuring themselves and causing bleeding.
People who have been diagnosed with asthma, heart disease, diabetes, stomach disorders or immunological deficiency diseases should not take this medication. Women who are being treated with alemtuzumab should avoid breastfeeding not only during the duration of their treatment but also for three months afterward. Patients who are receiving this medication should stay away from people who have infectious diseases. Alemtuzumab might cause birth defects, so women who are receiving treatment with it should avoid becoming pregnant.
This medication can cause increased bleeding and bruising, so patients must be aware of the possibility of dangerous interactions that can occur if they're supplementing with vitamin E or taking medications such as anticoagulants or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Before people start a treatment regimen with alemtuzumab, they should inform their healthcare providers about all medications and nutritional or herbal supplements that they are taking. It's also recommended that patients talk to their doctors about optimal nutrition and avoid eating foods that could cause injury or infection.
Live vaccines shouldn't be received by patients who are being treated with this medication. Patients should put off getting vaccines for several weeks following treatment. The way in which alemtuzumab works in the body might cause it to interfere with the efficacy of the vaccine.