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What is alemtuzumab?

Alemtuzumab (also called Campath®) is an anticancer medicine. It is a colorless liquid given into a vein (IV) during a long infusion (at least 2 hours but up to 6 hours). It may also be given into fatty areas just under the skin (called a subcutaneous injection).

Alemtuzumab can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving this drug. For 48 hours after this drug is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.”

Possible side effects of alemtuzumab


  • Flu-like reaction, which may cause fever, severe chills, headache, shortness of breath, and dizziness
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash, itching
  • Joint or muscle pain

Later (more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Low blood counts, which can increase the chance of getting an infection
  • Mouth and lip sores
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Rash
  • Decreased appetite

If you have any of these side effects, tell the doctor right away:

  • Sudden and severe pain in the upper stomach with nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Vision changes
  • Decrease in how much or how often you urinate
  • An allergic reaction, including itching, skin redness, severe chills, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, or pain in the chest, side, or back

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for alemtuzumab

  • You may be asked to not take blood pressure medicines 24 hours before and after your infusion of alemtuzumab. It is important to follow the instructions from your doctor.
  • The nurse will observe you closely during and after the infusion of alemtuzumab because some people have a severe reaction to this drug. Your vital signs will be taken often.
  • Tell your nurse how you are feeling during the infusion of alemtuzumab. Let the nurse know if you are feeling short of breath, have chills, feel lightheaded or dizzy, or feel like your muscles are stiffening. There are medicines that can be given to lessen or prevent these effects.
  • The doctor may ask you to take diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) before alemtuzumab is given to prevent the flu-like side effects that can occur.
  • The staff will take blood samples regularly to check for changes in liver function and blood counts.
  • It may be easier for you to get infections while you are receiving alemtuzumab. Stay away from crowds or people with colds, flu, or other infections.
  • This medicine may make your mouth sore and irritated. The doctor or nurse may give you oral rinses to keep your mouth clean after you receive alemtuzumab.
  • Alemtuzumab can cause nausea and vomiting. The doctor may prescribe medicine to keep you from feeling sick and throwing up after you receive alemtuzumab.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).