If you have multiple myeloma, your doctor may recommend treatment with Empliciti. It’s used in adults to treat multiple myeloma in certain situations.
Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer. It affects blood cells called plasma cells.
For more information on how Empliciti is used to treat this type of cancer, see the “Is Empliciti used for multiple myeloma?” section just below.
Empliciti contains the drug elotuzumab, which is a biologic medication.
A biologic is made from parts of living organisms. Empliciti isn’t available in a biosimilar form. (Biosimilars are like generic drugs. But unlike generics, which are made for non-biologic drugs, biosimilars are made for biologic drugs.) Instead, elotuzumab comes only as the brand-name drug Empliciti.
Empliciti belongs to a group of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which are a type of immunotherapy.
Empliciti comes as a powder in single-dose vials. You’ll receive the drug from a healthcare professional as an intravenous (IV) infusion. (This is an injection into your vein that’s given over a period of time.)
Read on to learn more about Empliciti’s use, how it’s given, and more.
Empliciti is used to treat multiple myeloma in adults, in certain situations.
Specifically, Empliciti is used in adults with multiple myeloma who:
- have had one to three treatments for multiple myeloma in the past. For this use, Empliciti is given with the medications dexamethasone and lenalidomide (Revlimid).
- have had at least two treatments for multiple myeloma in the past. These treatments must have included the drug lenalidomide (Revlimid), and a proteosome inhibitor, such as bortezomib (Velcade) or carfilzomib (Kyprolis). For this use, Empliciti is given with the medications dexamethasone and pomalidomide (Pomalyst).
Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer. It affects white blood cells called plasma cells. Plasma cells are found in your bone marrow and are part of your immune system. They make antibodies, which are proteins that recognize and kill germs that may cause infection.
With multiple myeloma, your plasma cells begin to grow and spread out of control. They form tumors in your bone tissue, making your bones weaker and easier to break. You also don’t have enough healthy plasma cells, which makes you more likely to get infections.
Empliciti is type of immunotherapy. It works to treat multiple myeloma by attaching to multiple myeloma cells. This makes it easier for your immune system to find and kill these cancer cells.
Your doctor will explain how Empliciti will be given to you. They’ll also explain how much you’ll be given and how often. (This is your Empliciti dosing schedule.)
Below are commonly used dosages, but the dosage you receive will be decided by your doctor.
Empliciti comes as a powder in single-dose vials. You’ll receive it as an intravenous (IV) infusion.
(This is an injection into your vein that’s given over a period of time.)
A healthcare professional will mix the powder into a liquid solution and give the drug to you as an infusion.
Your Empliciti infusion time depends on your body weight and on how many doses of Empliciti you’ve already had. Your doctor can give you more specific information on how long your Empliciti infusion may last.
If you’re taking Empliciti for multiple myeloma, your Empliciti dose is based on your body weight.
You’ll likely receive a dose once each week for the first 8 weeks. After that, you’ll get a dose either every 2 weeks or every 4 weeks, depending on your treatment plan.
Receiving Empliciti with other drugs
You’ll receive Empliciti with other drugs. The other drugs you take will depend on what past treatments you’ve had for multiple myeloma.
You’ll also receive medications before administration of Empliciti. This helps to reduce your risk for infusion reactions. (An infusion reaction is similar to an allergic reaction. It can happen after you receive a drug by IV infusion.)
Empliciti and other drugs for multiple myeloma
Which medications you’ll take with Empliciti for multiple myeloma differs based on your past treatments for the condition. You’ll either take:
Empliciti and premedications to help prevent infusion reactions
About 45 to 90 minutes before your Empliciti infusion time, your healthcare professional will give you the following drugs to help prevent infusion reactions:
- a type of antihistamine called an H1 blocker, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- a type of antihistamine called an H2 blocker, such as ranitidine (Zantac)
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Questions about receiving Empliciti
Below is a list of common questions related to Empliciti treatment.
- What if I miss a dose of Empliciti? Empliciti is only given by a healthcare professional. If you miss an appointment for an Empliciti infusion, call your doctor right away. They can help reschedule your appointment as soon as possible.
- Will I need to use Empliciti long term? Empliciti is meant to be a long-term treatment, if you and your doctor agree it’s working well for you.
- Can Empliciti be chewed, crushed, or split? Empliciti is a powder that your healthcare professional will mix into a liquid. Then, they’ll give it to you as an IV infusion. This drug doesn’t come as tablets or capsules, so it can’t be chewed, crushed, or split.
- Should I take Empliciti with food? You’ll receive Empliciti as an IV infusion. It doesn’t matter whether you eat before, during, or after an infusion.
- How long does Empliciti take to work? Empliciti begins working after your first dose, but you likely won’t “feel” it working. Your doctor will monitor whether Empliciti is working to treat your multiple myeloma by using certain tests, such as blood tests.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about Empliciti and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
- How will Empliciti affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
Like most drugs, Empliciti may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Empliciti may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you’re taking
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Empliciti. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that Empliciti can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Empliciti’s patient information.
Mild side effects of Empliciti that have been reported include:
- fatigue (lack of energy)
- swelling in your nose and sinuses
- upper respiratory infection, such as the common cold
- decreased appetite
- numbness and tingling in your arms or legs
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Empliciti can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Empliciti, call your doctor right away. If you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Empliciti that have been reported include:
- liver damage
- infections, including serious ones such as pneumonia*
- infusion reactions*
- types of cancer other than multiple myeloma, which Empliciti is used to treat*
- allergic reaction*
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Side effect focus
Learn more about some of the side effects Empliciti may cause.
Infections were a common side effect in people who got Empliciti injections in the drug’s studies. In fact, most people who took the drug had at least one infection.
Usually, these infections are mild, and could include the common cold. But, in rare cases, they may be serious or even life threatening. Examples of serious infections include pneumonia and herpes zoster (shingles).
What might help
While you’re receiving Empliciti, your doctor will monitor you for any new infections. You should also keep an eye out for any symptoms of an infection, such as:
Call your doctor right away if you think you have an infection during Empliciti treatment. They can recommend whether your infection needs to be treated. And they may have you stop taking Empliciti until your infection is gone.
While receiving treatment with Empliciti, you may have infusion reactions as a side effect. An infusion reaction is similar to an allergic reaction. It can happen after you receive a drug by intravenous (IV) infusion.
Empliciti is given as an IV infusion. This is an injection into your vein that’s given over a period of time.
Some people had infusion reactions in Empliciti studies, but this wasn’t common. In most cases, these reactions were mild. But infusion reactions from Empliciti can be serious in rare cases.
Symptoms of infusion reactions in people taking Empliciti during studies included:
What might help
Before each Empliciti infusion, your doctor will give you certain drugs to help prevent infusion reactions. For more information about these medications, see “Receiving Empliciti with other drugs” in the “How is Empliciti given?” section above.
If you have an infusion reaction while you’re getting an Empliciti infusion, your doctor will stop the infusion. Depending on the severity of your reaction, they may suggest a treatment.
If they decide it’s safe for you to continue taking Empliciti, they’ll slow down how quickly the drug is infused. They’ll probably monitor you for at least 2 hours after your infusion ends. This is because infusion reactions may come back, even after an infusion is finished.
If your infusion reaction is severe, your doctor may suggest you stop Empliciti permanently and try another treatment.
Other types of cancer
These cancers that developed were new, and they included:
Sometimes, new cancers don’t cause symptoms. But in other cases, they may cause symptoms such as:
What might help
Your doctor will monitor you for any new cancers while you’re taking Empliciti. You should also watch for any of the symptoms listed above, and call your doctor if you notice any.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Empliciti. Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
- skin rash
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Empliciti. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Empliciti.
How does Empliciti work?
Empliciti’s mechanism of action (how it works) is by attaching to multiple myeloma cells. This makes it easier for your immune system to find and kill these cancer cells.
Your doctor or pharmacist can also tell you more.
Is Empliciti a chemotherapy drug?
No, Empliciti isn’t a chemotherapy drug.
Chemotherapy describes traditional drugs used to treat cancer. It works by killing cells in your body that quickly multiply (make more cells). This includes cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. This is why many chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss, for example.
Instead, Empliciti is a type of targeted therapy. It works by attaching itself to multiple myeloma cells to alert your immune system to these cells. As part of this signaling, it targets specific cells, called natural killer cells, and helps them destroy cancer cells.
This means Empliciti doesn’t affect healthy cells as much as chemotherapy drugs do. Targeted therapies such as Empliciti may cause fewer side effects than chemotherapy drugs.
Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use.
If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Empliciti manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.
Some important things to discuss with your doctor when considering treatment with Empliciti include your overall health and any medical conditions you have. You should also discuss any medications you’re taking.
Taking medications, vaccines, foods, and other things with a certain drug can affect how the drug works. These effects are called interactions.
There aren’t any drugs known to interact with Empliciti. But keep in mind that Empliciti is always used with other drugs to treat multiple myeloma. There are known interactions with these drugs and some other medications.
So be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter types. Also describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with other drugs that you’ll take with Empliciti.
Interactions with lab tests
Empliciti can affect the results of certain lab tests that check for M protein in your body.
Empliciti is used to treat multiple myeloma, and multiple myeloma cells make M protein. Having higher M protein levels in your body mean your condition is more advanced. But, Empliciti may cause M protein tests to detect a higher level than what’s actually in your body.
While you’re receiving Empliciti, your doctor will order tests to check for M protein in your body. They may order tests for M protein that aren’t affected by Empliciti to monitor your treatment.
Empliciti may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Empliciti. Factors to consider include those below.
- Current infection. If you currently have an infection, you shouldn’t start taking Empliciti. This is because Empliciti can weaken your immune system. This could make it harder for your body to fight an infection. Your doctor will likely want to treat your infection before you start treatment with Empliciti.
- Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Empliciti or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take Empliciti. Ask your doctor what other medications are better options for you.
Empliciti and alcohol
Alcohol isn’t known to interact with Empliciti. But consuming alcohol can damage your liver. And liver problems are a possible side effect of Empliciti. Drinking alcohol while you’re taking Empliciti could increase your risk for liver damage.
Talk with your doctor about how much alcohol may be safe for you to consume while you’re receiving Empliciti.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
There haven’t been any studies of Empliciti in pregnant people. But drugs that are used with Empliciti, lenalidomide (Revlimid) and pomalidomide (Pomalyst), must never be used while you’re pregnant. Because Empliciti is always used with one of these two drugs, Empliciti also shouldn’t be used while you’re pregnant.
If you are a female* who’s able to become pregnant, you’ll need to use birth control while taking Empliciti. If you are a male* with a partner who can get pregnant, you’ll also need to use birth control. Your doctor can give you more information about this.
It’s not known whether Empliciti passes into human breast milk, or if it causes side effects in a child who’s breastfed. But lenalidomide (Revlimid) and pomalidomide (Pomalyst) may cause serious side effects in a breastfed child. Because Empliciti is always used with one of these two drugs, you shouldn’t breastfeed while taking Empliciti.
Your doctor can give you more information.
In this article, we use the terms “male” and “female” to refer to someone’s sex assigned at birth. For information about the difference between sex and gender, see this article.
If you have multiple myeloma, your doctor may recommend treatment with Empliciti. It’s used in adults to treat multiple myeloma in certain situations.
If you have questions about using Empliciti, talk with your doctor.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask your doctor about treatment with Empliciti:
- How long can I expect each Empliciti infusion to last?
- What side effects may I expect from the premedications used with Empliciti?
- How will I be monitored and treated for infusion reactions, if they occur with Empliciti?
You may want to ask your doctor about other treatments for these conditions. Below are a few articles you may find helpful:
If I can’t feel Empliciti working, how will I know whether the drug is helping me or not?Anonymous patient
Your doctor will order certain tests to see how your immune system is responding to Empliciti. These tests could include blood or urine tests.
Talk with your doctor about how they plan to monitor your treatment with Empliciti.Dena Westphalen, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.