New MS treatment available on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

25 March 2015

Lemtrada® (alemtuzumab), a new therapy for people living with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from 1 April 2015.

As part of the scheme, the majority of treatment costs will be covered for people with relapsing-remitting MS who meet specific criteria.

Developed by Genzyme, Lemtrada works by depleting the circulation of T and B cells thought to be responsible for inflammations that occur in MS. This may reduce the impact of the condition on the Central Nervous System.

Lemtrada is generally administered over two annual treatment courses. The first course is administered daily via intravenous (IV) infusion for five consecutive days, and the second course is administered for three consecutive days, 12 months later.

The inclusion of Lemtrada on PBS comes after positive results from clinical trials involving nearly 1,500 patients with extensive follow-up. More than 60 people with MS participated in the trials in Australia.

It is common for people being treated with Lemtrada to experience side effects at the time of infusion; however these are mostly mild to moderate.

More serious side effects are autoimmune conditions where the body's own defence system attacks normal tissue. These could include thyroid gland disorders, immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), kidney damage, red and white blood cell disorders, reactions to the infusion and infections.

Side effects could occur months or years after treatment and can be treated if detected early. Careful monitoring by patients and their doctors is required to ensure early detection.

All patients receiving Lemtrada will be monitored for side effects and must continue monthly blood and urine testing for 48 months following their last infusion. They will also be enrolled into Bloodwatch, a monitoring program specifically designed to assist with the monitoring.

For more information please contact the MSWA Nursing Team on (08) 9365 4888 or email

Source: Genzyme, 2015, New MS Treatment, LEMTRADA, To Be Reimbursed For Australians, press release, A Sanofi Company, Sydney, 25 March.