January 20, 2017 — The multiple sclerosis (MS) drug alemtuzumab caused severe and unpredictable side effects in a new study of patients with highly-active forms of the disease.
Alemtuzumab has been sold in the U.S. under the brand-name Lemtrada by Genzyme Corporation since 2014.
It was already known from clinical trials that 25% of patients develop mostly minor autoimmune responses to alemtuzumab.
Unfortunately, the drug also apparently worsens MS in some cases, according to a study published in Lancet Neurology. Scientists reported two patients whose symptoms of MS significantly worsened after they were treated with the drug for about six months.
The patients included a 41 year-old man and a 25 year-old woman who developed “severely exacerbated” brain inflammation after being treated with alemtuzumab.
Using an MRI, the scientists found a new kind of inflammation — vast areas of the brain with numerous ring-shaped lesions, according to the report. Both patients improved with an antibody against B-cell lymphocytes, which are believed to trigger inflammation and relapses of MS.
Multiple Sclerosis is a common neurological disease in young adults that causes chronic brain inflammation and permanent nerve damage. It is believed to occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy nerve cells. Complications may include:
- Visual disturbances
- Muscle weakness
- Trouble with coordination and balance
- Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or “pins and needles”
- Thinking and memory problems
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