Actemra (Tocilizumab) is a biologic medicine that suppresses an overactive immune system in order to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some types of juvenile arthritis.
Actemra works by blocking the interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) found on the surface of cells within the body. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a signalling protein, or cytokine, that plays an important role in the immune response. IL-6 can cause pain and swelling in the joints of people with arthritis. Blocking it can help improve their symptoms.
Actemra is a type of protein known as a monoclonal antibody.
Actemra is available as an injection (Actemra SC), and as an IV infusion (Actemra IV). The injection can be done quickly at home. The infusion is done at a specialized infusion clinic. There is no option to receive Actemra infusions at home like there is with Orencia, another type of biologic medication.
The normal dose for the injection is 162 mg, every 1 or 2 weeks depending on the patient’s body weight. To learn how take the injection at home, watch our video to learn how to self-inject: Learn how to inject: subcutaneous injections. Subcutaneous injections are easy to do compared to other types of injections. A small needle pokes just under the skin to deliver medicine into the “fatty tissue” below.
The dose for Actemra IV infusions is based on the patients’ weight, either at 4mg/kg or 8mg/kg. That means typical doses range from 200 mg to a maximum of 800 mg per infusion.
It can take 6-12 weeks for patients to feel the effects of this medication.
Actemra is often given in combination with methotrexate.
Important Tests and Risks
Actemra can make it a bit harder for people to fight off infections. Patients taking this medicine should call their doctor they have a fever, think they have an infection, or have been prescribed antibiotics to treat an infection. Patients should coordinate with their doctor to stop treatment before any surgery. It can be re-started once things have healed and there’s no sign of infection. Patients should discuss all vaccinations with their doctor because some are not advisable to get while taking Actemra.
All patients should have a TB (tuberculosis) skin test and a chest x-ray before starting Actemra.
It is important for patients who are taking Actemra to get regular blood tests as requested by their doctor. It is necessary to make sure Actemra isn’t affecting the liver, blood counts, or cholesterol levels.
Drug Identification Number (DIN): 02350092 (IV), 02350106 (IV), 02350114 (IV), 02424770 (SC)