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What Is Alefacept?

By Christina Whyte
Updated May 17, 2024
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Alefacept is an immunosuppressant which is used to treat chronic plaque psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis is a skin condition in which scaly, red, inflamed patches develop on the skin. Alefacept works by reducing the number of T-cells, a type of white blood cell that in the case of psoriasis causes abnormal inflammation and skin cell growth. There are some side effects that may occur when taking this medication, and it is not suitable for all people with psoriasis.

This medication is injected either intramuscularly or intravenously by a healthcare professional usually once a week for a twelve week period. The prescribing physician will determine the dosage and dosage schedule that is best for a particular patient. It is important not to miss injection appointments or checkups. Vaccinations should not be given while in treatment without physician supervision because it is not known if the safety or efficacy of vaccines is affected by alefacept.

There are a few side effects that may occur while taking alefacept. Dizziness, headaches, nausea, muscle aches, and pain at the injection site should be reported to a doctor if severe or persistent. Since this medication is an immunosuppressant, there is a higher risk of contracting an infection while taking it. While undergoing treatment, patients should avoid sick people and see a doctor if they develop signs of a chest, sinus, urinary, or other infection.

Some patients may experience more serious reactions. There is a possibility that alefacept increases the risk of developing malignancies, so people who have or have had cancer need to ensure the doctor knows about it. This medication lowers a patient's white blood cell count, which will need to be monitored by a doctor. If the white blood cell count drops too low, treatment may need to be discontinued. Allergic reactions to alefacept are possible, and difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling should be reported immediately.

Patients who are taking other immunosuppressants, are receiving phototherapy, or have any other condition that affects the immune system should speak to their doctors about the suitability of this medication. Care must be taken to not suppress the immune system too much or it can be dangerous for the patient. People who are HIV positive should not take this medication. Women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are nursing a baby should discuss it with their doctors because the effects of alefacept on a nursing or unborn baby have not been extensively studied.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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