JRA.... Journal of a Radical Arthritis Chick

Here I give advice, speak of my experiences and give information to those who want to better understand Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am NOT a medical professional, and you should always seek advice from a doctor.

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Location: MA, United States

Hello everyone! I am 28 years old and was diagnosed with JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) when I was just 3 years old. I've had my battles with this disease over the years, and have decided to create a blog. I want to share my stories and adivce with other RA chicks, or anyone interested, to raise awareness and get insight from others. Feel free to comment/question me about anything. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Actemra

A while ago I did a series of medicine blogs, all of which were medicines that I had tried in the past.  I've seen a few people asking about information about other medicines, and are having trouble finding information on search engines.  So, I've decided to do a few more medicine blogs about those I have left out.  Hope these help you all who have had some trouble finding information! 

Medicine Blog #7: Actemra

As I said, I've never taken Actemra before so I have no personal information about it.  I have done extensive research and compiled all that I could find here for you, to hopefully help those who are wondering about it.  There isn't a lot of information out there, because Actemra is a very new medicine on the market.  It was approved by the FDA on January 11, 2010 and on April 15, 2011 it was approved by the FDA to be taken in combination with Methotrexate. 

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. 

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