Actemra

1 What is Actemra?

Brand: Actemra

Generic: Tocilizumab

Actemra is a monoclonal antibody which is used to improve the signs and symptoms of moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis.

It can be used alone or in combination with other drugs to reduce the inflammation and to prevent joint damage after other drugs have not proved to be of much use.

It is also used in idiopathic variants of arthritis. It is a prescription drug, available only in the form of injectable solution, which can be used only under strict supervision of a physician.

2 What To Know Before Using

Your doctor will inform you of what you need to know before using Actemra. The patient is the authoritative figure when it comes to any medical procedure or any drug therapy. It is important for the patient to know all the details about the drug and then start using it.

Doctor also has a duty to bring out answers from the patient which play an important role in treatment like history, any allergy or any medical condition the patient has. For this purpose, it is important to have a detailed session between the patient and the physician before starting this drug to sort out all the details.

Detailed history of a patient is extremely important prior to any medical therapy and in this case, it is more likely that a drug be started after it. Allergies or any history of allergy to any drug, food, preservatives, dyes or animal products; history of drug usage, past medical or surgical procedure should also be kept in record to predict any drug interaction.

Physical examination should be done before starting this drug so that any physiological or pathological condition with which this drug may interfere may be ruled out.

Age specific analysis is vital to have information about side effects in different age groups. Studies have revealed that this drug is not associated with any special effect in elderly or children which would limit its usefulness. There are not enough studies done in pregnant and breastfeeding women to predict its usefulness or harms.

Drug interactions are the effects on the therapy or the condition for which the drug is used by other drugs used concomitantly. It is necessary that no drug be started without consulting a physician as other drugs may cause alteration in the effect of this drug or its removal from the body.

There are certain drugs which result in increase in interactions and hence these should be used with extreme care. One such interaction has been reported with Infliximab and the doctor will change the dose of either of these drugs to decrease such interactions. Patient should also be counselled about effects of several types of food, alcohol and tobacco on the patient as these may cause severe interactions.

Medical conditions, other than the condition for which this drug is used, may also affect working of the drug and cause harm. It is important for the patient to give detailed history, and important for the doctor to derive such details from the patient to avoid such circumstances.

The conditions which may interact with this drug include:

  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Liver disease
  • Multiple sclerosis or its history
  • Low level of white blood cells
  • Stomach or bowel problems
  • Low number of platelets
  • Immune depression
  • Any active or recurring infection

This drug may cause reactivation of tuberculosis and hence special care should be taken before starting it.

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3 Proper Usage

Actemra is a prescription drug given only under strict supervision by a trained medical professional.

It should be given in a slow release form and needle should be kept for at least one hour.

This drug comes with a treatment guide which should be read well before initiation of therapy.

4 Precautions To Take

Before using Actemra, there are some precautions you must take. Precautions are the part and parcel of any treatment and patient must adhere to these to improve the outcome.

It is the duty of the doctor or any medical care provider to make the patient aware about these tips as an aid to the therapy.

  • Regular checkup is necessary to look for the progress of the treatment.
  • Blood tests can be done to check for side effects.
  • If the symptoms do not improve much, consult your doctor again.
  • Reactivation of tuberculosis can occur by this drug. The patient should undergo a skin test to check for this disease. Family members should also be checked for better effect.
  • Avoid contact with people having active infection as this drug causes immune depression and increases risk of infections.
  • Consult your doctor if there are signs of a persistent illness.
  • Consult your doctor if there are any allergic reactions at the site of injection.
  • Stomach and bowel problems may arise and any pre-existing condition may get aggravated by this drug. Consult your doctor in case of any abdominal discomfort.
  • Vaccination should be avoided in people receiving this drug and avoid contact with people receiving any vaccine.
  • Level of cholesterol and fats in the body is increased by this drug. Undergo regular blood tests to check for any changes.
  • Do not start any other drug, prescription or non-prescription, without consulting your physician.

5 Potential Side Effects

As with many medications, there are several potential side effects associated with Actemra. There is no drug in the world which is without its unwanted effects. Some drugs are relatively safe for use while for some drugs, the patient should be cautious as these drugs may cause more harm than good.

Patient should always get medical help in case of any adverse effect, no matter how trivial it is.

Common side effects resulted by this drug include:

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