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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Actemra: New Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug

As promised: I did a research on the new approved Rheumatoid Arthritis drug. The name is Actemra (Tocilizumab) and this biological medication got its approval from the FDA on January 11th, 2010 and is available for patients as of January 18th, 2010.

The drug, which was already approved in countries like Japan, the European Union, Mexico, Brazil, India and Australia, is mainly for people with moderate to severe RA who have found no relief using other medications for this disease.

A protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6) is overproduced in the joints of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Actemra blocks this protein, while most other biological RA treatments like Humira, Enbrel, Remicade, Simponi, and Cimzia block the TNF-alpha (inflammatory protein tumor necrosis factor alpha).

Drugs like Kineret block the inflammatory signal interleukin-1 (IL-1). Orencia prevents certain immune system cells (T-cells) from being activated and Rituxan helps to eliminate the immune system B-cells, which are suspect to be overly active in autoimmune diseases.

Actemra is administered by IV once a month and studies have shown that it acts quick and powerful, but there are great concerns about the side effects. The common side effects are:
- Increased cholesterol. Yeah the 'bad' kind!
- High blood pressure.
- Infections in the upper respiratory system.
- Increased liver enzymes.
- Gastrointestinal perforations (holes in the lining of the stomach or intestines).

Unusual side effects like Diverticulitis which causes swelling and inflammation in the intestinal wall and parts of the mouth can occur and Actemra was linked previously to 15 deaths in Japan. Don't let that scare you, you will be closely monitored by your Rheumatologist.

Actemra can interact with your other medicines like those for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Asthma, blood thinners, Epilepsy, immune suppressants and anti-anxiety medicines.

As you can see, there are some snakes in the grass and caution is of the utmost importance, but that goes for all medications. The main thing is that this new drug will help control the negative effects of your condition, so that you live a more comfortable and happier life.

Your doctor will also keep an eye or two on you and don't hesitate to pose any questions you may have. It does not matter why you don't ask; whether it be out of pride, embarrassment or appearing stupid. The most stupid question is the one that is not asked!

Proverbs 13:10
By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom.


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