Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use as a first line therapy option for people with relapsing remitting MS who have active disease. Lemtrada is not recommended for patients with mild or inactive disease or those who are stable on their current therapy.
Lemtrada has been shown to reduce the frequency of relapses and delay the progression of disability in some people when compared with interferon beta treatments (see this previous MS Research Australia article for more details). It works by depleting the B and T cells of the immune system and slowing the disease process of MS.
Lemtrada is given by intravenous infusion in two doses one year apart. The first dose consists of infusions given over five consecutive days, the second dose consists of infusions given over three days. In most people, no further treatments are necessary. Due to potential side effects, people using Lemtrada must be monitored for four years so that side effects can be identified and treated promptly.
Lemtrada has not yet been listed under the pharmaceutical benefit scheme (PBS). Genzyme, the Australian sponsor of the drug are currently making arrangements to make Lemtrada available in Australia. It is understood that Lemtrada will be submitted for consideration by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee in future.
Lemtrada has also been approved in the European Union and Canada, but has not been approved by the USA Federal Drug Agency due to some residual concerns about the risk versus benefit profile of the drug.
As people with MS respond differently to treatments and the side-effect profiles of drugs differ, new treatment choices are desirable. MS Research Australia welcomes new treatments that have undergone rigorous clinical testing as a way of giving people living with MS more options in reducing the impact of the disease on their lives.
For more information on treatments available for MS please click here.
Please note: MS Research Australia does not recommend any specific disease-modifying treatment for people living with MS. Decisions about any treatments, taking into consideration the potential benefits and side effects, should be made in careful consultation with the person’s neurologist.