Medicine Blog #7: Actemra
First, What is Acetmra, and how exactly does it work? This was taken directly from Acetmra's website: ACTEMRA works by being specifically designed to block the action of the IL-6 messenger cytokine, and is the only medicine to do so. Cytokines send signals to white blood cells to fight germs and viruses. Unfortunately, people with RA have too many cytokines in their body, including IL-6. The white blood cells then work too hard and attack the body, resulting in the signs and symptoms of RA.
So Actemra works by getting rid of the extra cytokines, unlike Enbrel and Humira which block TNF (tumor-necrosis factor - the substance that creates inflammation) or Methotrexate which blocks white blood cells from growing too quickly (please view my other medicine blogs for more information). It is usually given after any of these, or other medications have not worked.
A study was done with patients who suffer from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some were given 8mg/kg and others were given 4mg/kg every 4 weeks. 59% of those who took the 8mg/kg and 48% of those who took the 4mg/kg showed 20% improvement in a number of swollen and tender joints and the CRP number was lowered after 24 weeks. Another study was done on patients who took Actemra in combination with Methotrexate. Those results showed that patients who were on 8mg/kg of Actemra plus Methotrexate: 56% showed 20% improvement, 36% showed 50% improvement and 20% showed 70% improvement after 52 weeks (1 year).
How is Actemra given? It is given intravenously (IV) by a nurse or doctor in a medical office or hospital. The medicine takes about 1 hour to receive, and is usually given once every 4 weeks. The doasge is either 4mg/kg or 8mg/kg, depending on the severity and what other medications the patients are on.
It is important to discuss all current medications (including supplements) with your doctor before starting Actemra, as some medications may interact with it. Some of those medications include: blood thinners, aspirin or other NSAIDs (ibuprofen like Advil or Motrin), naproxen, some cholesterol-lowering medications, and oral contraceptives. This isn't an entire listing, so please make sure you have a full list if everything you are currently taking for medications!
What side effects can occur with Actemra? Side effects may include, but are not limited to: headaches, runny nose and/or sneezing that don't go away, hives, itching, swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs, difficulty breathing or swallowing, dizziness or fainting, change in bowl movements/habits, unusual bleeding or bruising.
As I said, these are not all possible side effects, and it is important to contact your doctor with any sign of something going on.