Lemtrada (alemtuzumab 12 mg) is a humanized monoclonal antibody, targeting CD52+ T and B cells, delivered by IV infusion on five consecutive days (course 1) followed by another three consecutive days one year later (course 2). Lemtrada has been approved in several countries for treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and is generally reserved for people with MS who have failed other treatments.
In clinical trials, infusion-associated reactions (IARs) affected 90.1 percent of patients receiving alemtuzumab. The most common IARs were headache, rash, fever (pyrexia), nausea, and flushing; most were mild to moderate in severity. The two main types of IARs are allergic (hypersensitivity) and nonallergic (cytokine release) reactions.
IARs were more frequent during course 1 than during course 2 of treatment; IARs occurred in 84.7-96.3 percent of patients during course 1 compared with 68.6-81.9 percent of patients during course 2. In each treatment course, the greatest numbers of IARs occurred with the first infusion and decreased with each infusion thereafter.
Management of IARs
Nurses play an important role in the detection and management of IARs. Best practices for management of IARs associated with Lemtrada include patient and caregiver education, prophylactic medication—particularly corticosteroids, antihistamines, and antipyretics—to reduce IAR severity, infusion monitoring, and discharge planning.
Severe IARs can generally be managed by slowing the infusion rate or by temporarily stopping the infusion, allowing time for recovery of symptoms, and then restarting at a slower rate.
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Prevention of Infusion Reactions with Lemtrada