Alemtuzumab (Generic Name)

Other Names: Campath-1H®

About This Drug

Alemtuzumab is used to treat cancer. It is given intravenously (IV) or subcutaneously (an injection under the skin).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sudden dizziness after you stand up from a lying or sitting position
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It may increase your risk for infection, fatigue, and bleeding.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Shaking (tremors) .
  • Effects on the nerves called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. It may be difficult for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk normally. The effect on the nerves may get worse with additional doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it may not get better in some people.
    Be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.

Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns

In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. 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 receiving this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period. Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.

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.

Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.

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 potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred. 

Breast Feeding Warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.

Treating Side Effects

  • Be sure to take antibiotic and antiviral medicines as you are told by your doctor. If you have trouble taking all of the doses because of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or another problem, call your doctor or nurse immediately.
  • 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 prevent or lessen nausea, vomiting, headaches, and diarrhea.
  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated.
  • During the IV infusion, if you experience pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV infusion, please tell your nurse immediately.

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 currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly 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 advice.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to this drug are rare, but may occur in some patients.

While you are receiving this drug by IV, tell your nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Fever or chills
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash or itching

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms while at home:

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than 3 times in one day
  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Severe headache

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

  • Tingling, pain, or burning feeling in your feet or hands
  • Difficulty walking or changes in the way you walk
  • Clumsiness in buttoning clothes, opening jars, or other routine activities
  • Nausea not relieved by prescribed medicine
  • Headache not relieved by prescribed medicine
  • Extreme tiredness that interferes with normal activities
  • Ongoing loss of appetite or rapid weight loss (such as 5 pounds in one week)
  • Diarrhea of 5 or 6 stools in one day or diarrhea with weakness

Revised December 2011 

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