Alemtuzumab (Intravenous)

Alemtuzumab is an intravenous drug that is used to treat the symptoms of the relapsing/remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS) and B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


In the US, Alemtuzumab is known under the brand names Campath and Lemtrada. This medication is only available on prescription through a restricted access program for patients suffering from the relapsing/remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS). Only health professionals who are enrolled in this program are permitted to prescribe Alemtuzumab. The medication is delivered to the patient intravenously in a pre-prepared solution.

This medication is used to treat the symptoms of the relapsing/remitting form of MS. Alemtuzumab will not provide a cure for MS, but it can work to slow down some of the more disabling effects of the disease and it also reduces the number of relapses a patient suffers.

The medication is also used in the treatment of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It works by preventing the growth of cancer cells.

Conditions treated

  • Relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis
  • B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Type of medicine

  • Intravenous solution


This medication is designed to control the symptoms of your MS, however, you may experience some unwanted side-effects when you begin using it. Before you start taking Alemtuzumab, you must mention to your doctor if you have ever had any side-effects or allergic reactions to any other form of medication, including non-prescription medicines, herbal preparations or vitamin supplements. You should also tell your doctor if you are aware of any allergies to preservatives, dyes, animals, or foods.

There are no known side-effects to children or elderly people from this medication. Alemtuzumab is not known to cause side-effects in unborn babies or pregnant women, however, you should try to avoid becoming pregnant until your course of treatment has finished.

Although there is no documented evidence to suggest that this medication presents a risk to babies through breast milk, you should discuss this with your doctor if you are breastfeeding to determine whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks. You may be advised to use a suitable baby formula instead of your own breast milk, until two to four months after you have completed your course of treatment. Do not use expressed breast milk, as this could still contain traces of the medication, which could be harmful to your baby.

The side-effects outlined below have been experienced by some patients taking Alemtuzumab. However, you should be aware that this list is not all-inclusive. If you do notice anything out of the ordinary about how you feel or if you think that your usual behavior has changed after you begin taking this medicine, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Common side-effects experienced by patients taking Alemtuzumab include:

  • chills or fever
  • cough
  • headaches
  • black, tarry stools
  • diarrhea
  • blood in the urine
  • dizziness or feeling lightheaded when standing up suddenly
  • rapid heartbeat
  • itching, rashes, or hives
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain or difficulty urinating
  • pale skin
  • sore throat
  • ulcers, white spots, or sores in the mouth or on the lips
  • sweating
  • swollen glands
  • breathing problems during exertion
  • unusual bruising or bleeding
  • feeling weak or unusually tired
  • trouble sleeping or disturbed sleep patterns

Some patients experience some less common side-effects when taking this medication, including:

  • swelling of the face, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • chest pains
  • hoarseness
  • lower back or side pain
  • muscle weakness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • rapid weight gain

If you begin to experience any of the side-effects mentioned above while you are taking Alemtuzumab, they may resolve themselves within a few weeks of you starting your course of treating as your body gets used to the new medication. In the meantime, your doctor may be able to suggest ways in which you can prevent or reduce some of the more unpleasant side-effects.

Not everyone will experience side-effects when taking Alemtuzumab, but you should always consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Some patients may experience the following side-effects, although these are rare:

  • sensations of burning, itching, prickling, 'pins and needles' or tingling of the fingers and toes
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • a loss of or lack of strength
  • a loss of normal appetite and subsequent weight loss
  • outbreaks of painful blisters or sores around the mouth, lips, nose, eyes, or genitals
  • frequent, unexplained nosebleeds

If you experience any of these more unusual side-effects, you should seek the advice of your doctor as soon as possible.


This medication will always be given to you by a doctor, a nurse, or other trained healthcare professional. The medicine is given in solution form through a sterile needle that is placed into one of your veins.

Alemtuzumab is usually given over two courses of treatment. Patients will receive the medication for five consecutive days for their first course of treatment. The second course of treatment will be given approximately one year later, over three consecutive days. Each course of treatment generally takes around four hours each day to deliver. You will be given a course of steroids prior to receiving your first course of Alemtuzumab. This is to prevent allergic reactions to the drug.

In order to receive treatment with Alemtuzumab, it is necessary for patients to enroll in a prescribing program called Lemtradaâ„¢ REMS program. Your treating physician will explain to you how the program works and will ask you to sign an enrollment form. It is important that you fully understand and follow the instructions for the Lemtradaâ„¢ REMS program in order to get the most benefit from it.

You should be given a Medication Guide with the medicine. Be sure to read the Guide and follow the instructions carefully. Your doctor will be pleased to answer any questions or concerns that you have.

Drug Interactions

Although some medicines should never be used together, in other cases it may be appropriate to use two or more different medicines, even though an interaction may occur. In this case, your doctor may elect to alter the dose or may suggest an alternative.

Always tell your doctor immediately if you are prescribed Alemtuzumab and you are already taking other medication. This should include herbal preparations, vitamin supplements or over-the-counter medicines. You should not use some medications when you are eating certain types of foods, or if you are using tobacco or alcohol as this may cause interactions to occur. Under these circumstances, you should discuss the use of this medication with your doctor before you begin taking it.

You should not use Alemtuzumab with any of the following medication. Your treating physician may prescribe an alternative or could change some of the other medication that you are taking.

It is not generally recommended that Alemtuzumab is used with any of the following medicines. However, if your doctor does prescribe Alemtuzumab in addition to your current drug regimen, the dose or frequency of use of both the medicines may be changed to negate the effect of any interaction.

  • adenovirus vaccine
  • bacillus of Calmette and Guerin live vaccine
  • live cholera vaccine
  • live influenza virus vaccine
  • live polio virus vaccine
  • smallpox vaccine
  • typhoid vaccine
  • yellow fever vaccine

If you suffer from some other medical conditions, this medication may not be safe to use or it may not be effective. Always tell your treating physician if you have any existing health conditions.

Please note that caution should be exercised when prescribing Alemtuzumab to patients suffering from any of the following conditions. The use of this medication with these conditions could make them worse.

  • any form of autoimmune disease (for example, Guillain-Barré syndrome, hemolytic anemia, pancytopenia, and rheumatoid arthritis)
  • problems related to bleeding
  • kidney disease
  • lung diseases
  • thyroid diseases

Alemtuzumab must not be used in patients who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Patients suffering from any form of infection should not be prescribed Alemtuzumab, as this medication could decrease the body's ability to fight infection.

You must not use this medication if you are also taking Campath®.


When taking this medication, you should attend your doctor for regular check-ups. These visits are important as they allow your doctor to make sure that the medication is working correctly. You will also have the opportunity to discuss any unwanted side-effects that you may be experiencing. Your doctor will also take blood and urine tests as part of this process. Your skin will also be checked by your doctor annually for signs of any melanomas.

Alemtuzumab can trigger a rare by extremely serious form of allergic reaction called an 'infusion reaction'. An infusion reaction can be life-threatening and requires urgent, immediate medical attention. Signs of an infusion reaction include:

  • a cough
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dizziness
  • rapid heartbeat
  • breathing difficulties
  • tightness across the chest
  • swelling of your face or hands
  • hives or itching
  • fever or chills
  • feeling lightheaded or faint

Alemtuzumab can increase the risk of certain forms of cancer, including melanoma, lymph nodes, and thyroid. Contact your doctor immediately if you notice a new swelling or lump in your neck, a cough, hoarseness or changes in your voice, neck pain, or problems with swallowing or breathing.

Alemtuzumab can cause autoimmune disorders, including immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). If you develop any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

  • nosebleeds
  • coughing or spitting up blood
  • tiny red or purple spots on your skin
  • heavy or irregular menstruation

Alemtuzumab can cause anti-glomerular basement membrane disease, a serious kidney problem. If you notice blood in your urine or swelling in your feet or legs, contact your doctor immediately.

During the course of your treatment with Alemtuzumab, you should not have any vaccinations without your doctor's prior approval. This medication may lower your body's natural resistance and there is a chance that you could get the infection that the immunization is intended to prevent. Other people in your household should try to avoid taking the oral polio vaccine, as there is could present a risk that the virus may be passed on to you. You should also avoid contact with anyone who has had the polio vaccine within the last few months. If this is not practical, you should wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth when you are in the same room as them.

Alemtuzumab can lower the number of white blood cells contained in your blood, and this could increase the likelihood of you getting an infection. The number of platelets could also be lowered, meaning that your blood clotting function could be compromised. For these reasons, you should take the following recommended precautions:

  • Where possible, try to avoid contact with people who may have infections. If you think you may be getting an infection, if you develop a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, if you have lower back or side pain, or experience difficulty or pain when urinating, you should consult your doctor immediately.
  • If you notice unusual bruising or bleeding, black or tarry stools, blood in your urine or stools, or tiny red pinpoint spotting on your skin, check with your doctor immediately.
  • Take care when brushing or flossing your teeth or using a toothpick. Speak to your dentist or doctor for advice on other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Ask your doctor's advice before undergoing any dental work.
  • Avoid touching the inside of your nose or your eyes, unless you have washed your hands first.
  • Take extra care when using sharp devices such as a razor, toenail or fingernail clippers.
  • Do not take part in any contact sports or other activities where bruising or injury may occur.

Tell your doctor if you think that you may have any kind of infection before you begin using Alemtuzumab. You must also tell your doctor if you have ever had an infection that was very slow to clear up or was recurrent. Notify your doctor immediately if you come into contact with someone who has chickenpox.

Women should arrange to be screened annually for human papillomavirus (HPV) in order to avoid contraction a cervical HPV infection.

Before you begin taking this medication, you will have a skin test for tuberculosis. You must tell your doctor if you or anyone in your household has ever been tested positive for tuberculosis or has been exposed to it.

You should not eat foodstuffs that may contain listeria bacteria (deli milk, unpasteurized milk and cheese, raw meat, seafood, or chicken). Always ensure that any such foods are properly heated before you eat them while you are taking this medication.

Use effective birth control methods while you are taking this medication and for four months following the conclusion of the treatment. If you think that you may be pregnant, if you are intending to become pregnant, or if you are breastfeeding, tell your doctor straight away.


Patients are generally not permitted to store this medication in their homes as it is delivered intravenously in hospital. However, if you are receiving treatment in your own home, you may be required to store the drug for a short period of time.

Always keep the medication in a sealed, airtight container and at room temperature.

This medication should not be placed in a deep freeze.

Do not expose the medication to direct sunlight and keep it away from strong heat sources. Do not allow the medication to get wet.

Keep the medication well away from children and pets. In the event that a pet consumes your medication, seek veterinary advice immediately.

Never use Alemtuzumab that has exceeded its use-by date or if the packaging or vial containing the solution appears to be damaged.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice on how to dispose of any unwanted or out-of-date medication. Do not flush leftover solution down the toilet, put it down the drain, or throw it out with your trash where it could be found by children or animals.


Alemtuzumab is an intravenous drug that is used to control and manage the symptoms of the relapsing/remitting form of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is also used in the treatment of B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The medication is not a cure for these diseases, but it does help to control the symptoms and slow the progression of the conditions.

Patients who are to receiving treatment with Alemtuzumab must first enroll in a prescribing program called Lemtradaâ„¢ REMS program. The medication is given over two courses of treatment with a one year gap between courses.

This medication causes a number of mild flu-like side-effects in some patients. Your doctor will advise you on how best to combat these effects, which will gradually subside as your body becomes acclimatized to the drug. You will not be suitable for this drug therapy if you suffer from any form of autoimmune disease, problems related to bleeding, or any type of kidney, lung, or thyroid disease

Alemtuzumab can be very effective in treating the symptoms of relapsing/remitting MS and B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia. To achieve the best results from treatment with this medication, it is important that you work closely with your doctor to find the appropriate dose and frequency of use.

Last Reviewed:
December 10, 2017
Last Updated:
April 27, 2018