Mavenclad (cladribine) is a prescription brand-name medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the following forms of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in certain adults:

With MS, your immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy nerve tissue. This causes inflammation (swelling and damage) and leads to symptoms such as pain and muscle weakness. “Relapsing” means there are times when you develop new MS symptoms, or your symptoms become more severe.

Here are the basics on Mavenclad:

  • Active ingredient: cladribine
  • Drug class: purine antimetabolite, which is a type of disease-modifying drug
  • Drug form: oral tablet
  • Available as generic: no

Read on for more information on Mavenclad and its use in treating MS. You can also refer to this article for an in-depth look at Mavenclad.

The use of Mavenclad for multiple sclerosis (its only approved use) may cause side effects that are mild or serious. The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported with Mavenclad use. For information on other potential side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see Mavenclad’s medication guide.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a medication, it tracks and reviews side effects of the drug. If you develop a side effect while taking Mavenclad and would like to inform the FDA, visit MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mavenclad may cause mild side effects. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But if they last longer, or if they become severe or bother you, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

The following mild side effects are more common with Mavenclad:

Some possible side effects of Mavenclad are less common but are usually mild, such as:

Serious side effects

Mavenclad can cause serious side effects in some people. Call your doctor right away if you develop serious side effects while taking Mavenclad. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Less common but serious side effects of Mavenclad can include:

* Mavenclad has boxed warnings for increased cancer risk and harm to a fetus if taken during pregnancy. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see “Before taking Mavenclad” below.

Mavenclad comes as a 10-milligram (mg) tablet that you swallow. You’ll take either one or two tablets per day during treatment cycles.

Mavenclad is taken as two treatment courses over a total of 2 years. Each treatment course consists of 2 cycles a year, which are about a month apart. Each cycle is 4 or 5 days long, and is taken according to a specific dosing schedule.

Your doctor will determine your dosage of Mavenclad based on your body weight (specifically, 3.5 milligrams per kilogram (kg)*). They’ll also give you specific instructions for when to take Mavenclad and how many tablets to take each day. It may be helpful to see the manufacturer’s website for an example of a dosing schedule for Mavenclad.

Note: After taking two treatment courses of Mavenclad, you shouldn’t take the drug again for at least 2 years. This is due to the risk of developing cancer. Mavenclad has a boxed warning about this risk, which is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see the “Before taking Mavenclad” section below.

* 1 kg is equal to about 2.2 pounds (lb).

Mavenclad’s dosing is based on your body weight and on a specific 2-year dosing schedule. (See “Mavenclad dosage” just above.) Follow instructions from your doctor about how to take Mavenclad, including when to take it and how many tablets to take per day.

How to take

Mavenclad comes as a 10-milligram (mg) tablet that you’ll swallow. Be sure to swallow each tablet whole. You shouldn’t crush, break, or chew Mavenclad tablets.

You can take this medication with or without food.

How often to take

You’ll take Mavenclad over a 2-year period. It’s taken in 2 treatment cycles a year, which last for 4 to 5 days each. The cycles are about a month apart. Your doctor will give you a specific dosing schedule to follow.

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about Mavenclad for multiple sclerosis (MS).

Can Mavenclad be used to treat primary progressive MS?

No. Mavenclad isn’t approved to treat primary progressive multiple sclerosis. It’s used to treat relapsing-remitting MS and active secondary progressive MS.

Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) is recommended as the only disease-modifying drug that effectively slows PPMS progression in people who are able to walk. Progression refers to the rate at which your condition gets worse.

If you have questions about PPMS treatments, talk with your doctor.

Does Mavenclad cure MS?

No, Mavenclad isn’t a cure for MS. It’s a disease-modifying treatment, which means that it can slow down the progression (worsening) of MS.

Mavenclad is meant to help you spend more time in remission. In remission, your MS symptoms may become mild or go away, and your MS may not seem to get worse.

Your doctor can provide more information about what you can expect from Mavenclad treatment.

Does Mavenclad suppress your immune system?

Yes, temporarily. Mavenclad may suppress (reduce the activity) of your immune system because the drug works to decrease your lymphocytes.

Lymphocytes are immune system cells that work to fight germs that cause infection. With MS, lymphocytes cause damage to your nerve tissue. Mavenclad treats MS by temporarily reducing the amount of lymphocytes in your body. As you continue to take Mavenclad, your lymphocyte levels will gradually increase up to typical levels.

Because of the drug’s effects on your immune system, you should not get live vaccines* during Mavenclad treatment. If you’re taking Mavenclad or considering it, check with your doctor before getting any vaccines.

* Live vaccines contain a small amount of weakened live virus or bacteria. (Unlike inactive vaccines, which don’t contain any live virus or bacteria.)

Is Mavenclad a form of chemotherapy?

Yes, Mavenclad’s active drug, cladribine, belongs to a group of drugs called antimetabolites. Antimetabolites are a type of chemotherapy that kills certain cells.

But Mavenclad isn’t used for cancer treatment. Instead, it’s used as a disease-modifying therapy for MS. This means the drug works to slow down the progression (worsening) of MS. This is because the drug suppresses (reduces the activity of) your immune system.

Cladribine is also the active ingredient in Leustatin, which is a chemotherapy drug used to treat various cancers. It’s given by IV injection, while Mavenclad is an oral tablet.

If you have questions about chemotherapy treatment, talk with your doctor.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disorder that affects your central nervous system (your brain and spinal cord). It’s a progressive condition, meaning that it gets worse over time.

The cause of MS isn’t fully understood, but it’s thought to be an autoimmune disease. With this type of condition, your immune system attacks your healthy tissue. MS causes immune system cells called lymphocytes to attack the myelin sheath (a protective layer that surrounds your nerves). This causes inflammation (swelling and damage), which leads to MS symptoms.

Mavenclad is a disease-modifying drug. It works to slow down the progression (worsening) of MS.

Types of MS

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common form of MS. RRMS involves relapses (times when symptoms get worse or new symptoms develop) and remissions (times when symptoms go away or become mild).

Eventually, RRMS can progress into active secondary progressive MS (SPMS). With active SPMS, you may not have times of remission, and symptoms usually worsen over time.

Symptoms of MS

The symptoms of MS can range from mild to severe. Some examples include:

Who Mavenclad is prescribed for

Mavenclad is approved to treat RRMS and SPMS. Your doctor may prescribe Mavenclad for you if:

  • you’re ages 18 years or older, and
  • you’ve tried another drug to treat MS that didn’t work well enough or caused bothersome side effects

Because of its risks of serious side effects, Mavenclad isn’t recommended for treating clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). CIS is an episode of MS-like symptoms that lasts longer than 24 hours. It’s often the first sign of MS. If you have CIS, talk with your doctor about your treatment options.

Mavenclad is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and active secondary progressive MS (SPMS) in certain adults.

The way Mavenclad works

Mavenclad targets certain types of immune system cells called lymphocytes.

Usually, lymphocytes work to fight off germs that cause infection. But with MS, lymphocytes attack your body’s nerve tissues, causing inflammation. Specifically, they attack the myelin sheath, which is a protective layer that surrounds your nerves. This damages your nerves and leads to MS symptoms.

Mavenclad works by temporarily reducing the number of lymphocytes in your body. This can reduce the damage that these cells cause.

Mavenclad has been shown to be effective at slowing the progression (worsening) of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in adults in clinical studies.

But Mavenclad treatment comes with serious risks.* For this reason, the drug is used in adults who have tried other treatments that weren’t effective enough or had to be stopped due to side effects.

For more information about how Mavenclad performed in clinical studies, you can see the manufacturer’s website.

* Mavenclad has boxed warnings for increased cancer risk and harm to a fetus if taken during pregnancy. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To learn more, see “Before taking Mavenclad” below.

Before you take Mavenclad, there’s some important information to keep in mind. The drug may not be a safe option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Some of these are mentioned below.

Boxed warnings

This drug has boxed warnings. These are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Boxed warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Cancer risk. Mavenclad treatment may increase your risk for developing cancer. This includes pancreatic cancer, skin cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Because of this risk, after completing two treatment courses, Mavenclad cannot be taken again for at least 2 years. And if you currently have cancer or are at high risk for developing cancer, you should not take Mavenclad. If you’ve had cancer in the past, your doctor will help you decide whether this drug is safe for you.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for standard cancer screening. This may include seeing a dermatologist for a skin exam, getting a colonoscopy, or having a mammogram.

Risks for a fetus. If taken during pregnancy, Mavenclad may cause harm to a fetus. The drug should not be taken during pregnancy. If you or your partner can become pregnant, you should use birth control during Mavenclad treatment and for 6 months after your last dose. (If you’re using hormonal birth control, you should also use a barrier method of birth control during treatment and for 4 weeks after your last dose.)

Your doctor can provide more information about this boxed warning.

Other warnings

In addition to boxed warnings, Mavenclad has other warnings.

If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors are relevant to you, talk with your doctor before taking Mavenclad if:

  • you have or have had cancer
  • you have or have had problems with your kidneys, liver, or heart
  • you have HIV
  • you have certain infections, such as tuberculosis
  • you’ve recently had or are going to have a blood transfusion
  • you’ve received any live vaccines* in the last 4 to 6 weeks
  • you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed
  • you’ve had an allergic reaction to Mavenclad or any of its ingredients

* Live vaccines contain a small amount of weakened live virus or bacteria. (Unlike inactive vaccines, which don’t contain any live virus or bacteria.)

How much Mavenclad costs is based on several factors. These can include your prescribed treatment plan, your insurance coverage, the pharmacy you use, and your location. For estimates of how much Mavenclad costs, see GoodRx.com.

Mavenclad is a brand-name medication. It’s not currently available as a generic. Brand-name drugs usually cost more than generics. To learn about generic drugs, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Now that you’ve learned about Mavenclad for multiple sclerosis (MS), you may still have some questions. Your doctor can recommend whether Mavenclad might be right for you.

Here are some other helpful references:

  • More details. For details about other aspects of Mavenclad, refer to this article.
  • Information on MS. For more information about MS, see the Medical News Today MS hub.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today 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.