Arthritis Home > Orencia

Orencia is a medication that is used for treating moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. Generally, it is prescribed for people whose conditions have not improved with other rheumatoid arthritis medicines. Orencia is given through an IV and is administered every two weeks for the first three doses and once every four weeks thereafter. Possible side effects of the drug include cough, dizziness, infections, and headache.

What Is Orencia?

Orencia® (abatacept) is a prescription medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In particular, it is approved to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis in people who have not adequately responded to other rheumatoid arthritis medications.
(Click Orencia Uses for more information on what it is used for, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Orencia?

The medication is made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

How Does It Work?

Rheumatoid arthritis is thought to be caused by an overactive immune system that attacks the body's own healthy tissues. Many rheumatoid arthritis treatments work by suppressing the immune system, preventing the body from attacking itself.
Orencia works by inhibiting T cells. T cells are a type of white blood cell (leukocytes) that play an important role in the immune system. Orencia seems to prevent T cells from being active and multiplying too much.


Orencia has been evaluated for rheumatoid arthritis in several different studies. In these studies, the drug was given to people who had unsuccessfully tried various other rheumatoid arthritis medications. In these studies, people who took it had fewer tender or swollen joints and were better able to perform their usual daily activities (such as walking, eating, or dressing), compared to people who did not take Orencia. The medication also slowed the structural damage to the joints.
Because Orencia targets a specific part of the immune system, it is called a "biological response modifier" because it changes (modifies) the body's immune response. It is also known as a "biologic" medication because it is made out of parts of cells or proteins.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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