Alemtuzumab (Generic Name)

Other Names: Campath-1H®

 
About This Drug

Alemtuzumab is used to treat cancer. It is given in the vein (IV) or by a shot under the skin (subQ)

 
Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
  • Decreased appetite (decreased hunger)
  • Sudden dizziness after you stand up from a lying or sitting down
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk for infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Shaking (tremors).
  • Effects on the nerves are called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness, tingling, or pain in your hands and feet. It may be hard for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk as usual. The effect on the nerves may get worse with more doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it does not get better in all people.

Allergic Reactions & Infusion Reactions

  • Allergic reactions to this drug are rare, but may happen in some patients.
  • While you are getting this drug in your IV, tell your nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:
    • Fever or chills
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
    • Feeling your heart beat is beating too fast (palpitations)
    • Feeling short of breath  or trouble breathing
    • Rash or itching
    • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling

Treating Side Effects

  • Be sure to take all antibiotic and antiviral medicines as you are told by your doctor. If you have trouble taking all of the doses because of nausea, throwing up, loose bowel movements, or another problem, call your doctor or nurse right away.
  • If you feel dizzy when you first stand up, sit upright for a few minutes before standing up.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that can help stop or lessen nausea, throwing up, headaches, and loose bowel movements.
  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to another health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • While getting this drug in your IV, please tell your nurse right away if you have pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV infusion.
  • If you have numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of alemtuzumab with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor’s help.

 

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than 3 times in one day
  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Severe headache

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Numbness, tingling, decreased feeling or weakness in fingers, toes, arms, or legs
  • Trouble walking or changes in the way you walk, feeling clumsy when buttoning clothes, opening jars, or other routine hand motions
  • Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Headache that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Extreme tiredness/weakness that interferes with normal activities
  • Lasting loss of appetite or rapid weight loss (such as 5 pounds in one week)
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or lfeeling lightheaded.

Sexual Problems and Reproduction Concerns

  • Infertility warning: Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may happen. In both men and women, this drug may affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your treatment. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking. 
    • In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations.
    • In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are getting this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.
    • Women may go through signs of menopause (change of life) like vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.
    • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the possible risks of problems in the unborn baby due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred.
  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment. Ask your doctor or nurse about effective birth control methods.
  • Breast Feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women should talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

Revised August 2014

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