Available by prescription, Actemra is a medication licensed to treat three types of arthritis. The medication is given either as an IV infusion or a subcutaneous injection. You may not be able to use this medication if you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, or high cholesterol. Possible side effects include headaches, infections, and high blood pressure.
What Is Actemra?
Actemra® (tocilizumab) is a prescription medication approved for treating the following conditions:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA)
- Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (PJIA).
Specifically, it is approved for treating moderate-to-severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults who have not responded well to one or more disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) therapies. It is also approved to treat active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis in people age two years and older.
Actemra can be given by IV (for all three uses) or by subcutaneous injection (for RA only).
(Click Actemra Uses for more information on what the medication is used for, including possible off-label uses. This article also lists the various TNF blockers.)
How Does Actemra Work?Actemra is an antibody that binds to a specific set of receptors known as interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptors in the body. This action prevents the interleukin-6 (which is a natural inflammatory protein) from binding to the receptor, thereby reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Because Actemra targets a specific part of the immune system (IL-6), it is called a "biological response modifier," as it changes (modifies) the body's immune response. It is also known as a "biologic" medication, because it is a protein. Lastly, Actemra is also classified as a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies (synthetic antibodies made in a laboratory) are a diverse group of medications used to treat a wide variety of conditions.