tocilizumab, Actemra

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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DOSING: The recommended dose of tocilizumab is 4-8 mg/kg administered as a single 60 minute intravenous infusion every 4 weeks.

DRUG INTERACTIONS: Tocilizumab has not been studied in combination with other similar drugs that block other chemicals that promote inflammation, for example, drugs that block TNF (for example, adalimumab  [Humira]). Combining anakinra (Kineret), abatacept (Orencia), rituximab (Rituxan) with other antirheumatic drugs similar to tocilizumab resulted in a reduction in white blood cells in the blood (neutropenia), serious infections and no additional benefit. Tocilizumab may interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines. Live vaccines, including attenuated vaccines, should not be given to patients receiving tocilizumab.

PREGNANCY: There are no adequate studies of tocilizumab in pregnant women.

NURSING MOTHERS: It is not known whether tocilizumab is excreted in breast milk.

SIDE EFFECTS: The most common adverse effects of tocilizumab in clinical studies were respiratory tract infections, headaches, hypertension (high blood pressure), and elevations in liver tests suggesting liver injury. Injection site reactions (rash, redness, swelling, itching) may also occur. Use of tocilizumab has been associated with serious infections such as tuberculosis, sepsis (bacteria in the blood) and fungal infections. Individuals with active infections should not be treated with tocilizumab. Tocilizumab may worsen or cause new diseases of the nervous system. In studies, some patients who used tocilizumab developed cancer. Other side effects include reduced levels of white blood cells or platelets, reactivation of herpes zoster infection (shingles), and hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions. In studies, gastrointestinal perforation was observed in patients with diverticulitis.

REFERENCE: FDA prescribing information for Actemra

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