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What is Arzerra®?

Dorothy Bland
Dorothy Bland

Arzerra® is the trade name for ofatumumab, a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2009 and co-developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Genmab. Leukemia is a term used to describe several bone marrow cancers characterized by abnormal growth of blood cells. Patients with the CLL type generally experience a gradual progression of mutated B cells or white blood cells, taking away their ability to produce antibodies, which trigger the immune system to fight off infections. Classified as a monoclonal antibody drug, this cancer medication features proteins designed to attach to cancer cells as well as normal B cells in the body, thereby helping the immune system identify these enemies and attack them.

Available only by prescription, Arzerra® is supplied in a liquid concentration and is diluted before being inserted directly into a vein. An Arzerra® injection is generally given only by doctors experienced in treating cancer patients and in appropriate settings such as hospitals or medical clinics. The normal recommended treatment is one dose a week for eight weeks. For the first week, a dose of 3,000 milligrams of ofatumumab is generally given while the remaining doses normally contain 2,000 milligrams. After a brief gap for about a month, injections are then given once a month for a four-month period.

Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

Usually, Arzerra® is turned to only when other medication options are no longer capable of managing CLL. Manageable symptoms associated with the treatment may include diarrhea, anemia, and nausea. The leukemia treatment also puts patients at an increased risk of developing certain types of infections such as respiratory tract infections. Avoiding contact with individuals with contagious diseases such as the flu might be useful for decreasing this possibility.

A much more dangerous infection that could occur is progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). PML is a brain infection that destroys white matter and usually has no means of prevention or treatment. PML symptoms may include dizziness, clumsiness, and loss of vision. To minimize this risk, patients should inform their doctor if they have or have ever had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or hepatitis B. An adjustment in the dosage might be essential to safeguard patient safety.

To help combat known side effects associated with Arzerra®, doctors will generally treat their patients with several medications before each dose is given. One drug likely to be given is an antihistamine to help prevent allergic reactions. Patients are also customarily cautioned not to get a live vaccine while taking Arzerra® injections. Live vaccines, such as the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, contain weakened versions of viruses or bacteria and could interact with ofatumumab and weaken the vaccine's protection. Even after treatments with Arzerra®, patients are typically urged to be diligent in attending all medical appointments, fand ollow-up testing is generally done to check for possible liver damage and other adverse effects.

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