What Is Actemra?

Actemra is prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis. It is a biologic drug, known as a monoclonal antibody. It is administered by injection every 1 to 2 weeks, or by intravenous infusion once a month. It is manufactured by Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche.

Why Is It Prescribed?

The FDA has approved Actemra as a medication for the following conditions:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (moderate to severe)
  • Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA)
  • Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (PJIA)
  • Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (SJIA)

How Does Actemra Work?

In rheumatoid artrhtis and other auto-immune diseases, the body’s own immune system begins to attack and destroy joints and tissue. Actemra works to suppress the immune system by blocking the protein interleukin-6, thereby preventing chronic inflammation.

Actemra, Heart Failure, and Pancreatitis

When Actemra was first approved, Genentech advertised the drug as “unique”, a breakthrough medication that didn’t carry a lot of the risks of other rheumatoid arthritis drugs. But a recent study published by STAT found over 1100 reports of deaths from heart or lung complications after using Actemra.

STAT analyzed more than 500,000 side-effect reports on rheumatoid arthritis drugs, and found clear evidence that the risks of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and other conditions were as high or higher for Actemra patients than for patients taking some competing drugs.

However, neither the manufacturer or the FDA has moved to inform patients of these serious health risks by adding them to the label of Actemra.

Actemra Side Effects and Injuries

The STAT investigators analyzed more then 500,000 side effect reports to the FDA and found that the risks of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and other conditions were higher for patients taking Actemra than for patients taking other rheumatoid arthritis drugs. Experts who examined the STAT data said the FDA should consider immediately adding warnings of the risk of heart failure and pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas that has a high risk of death.

A 2016 study released by the  American College of Rheumatology in 2016 found that Actemra users had a 1.5 times greater risk of heart attack than patients taking Enbrel, a competing rheumatoid arthritis drug.

The FDA has also received reports of interstitial lung disease (lung scarring), strokes, gastrointestinal holes and tears, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), tremors, and other side effects of Actemra.

What Can You Do?

If you or someone you love has taken Actemra and suffered heart failure and/or pancreatitis, you may have a legal claim for damages against the manufacturer. Call our Massachusetts Actemra lawyers toll free at 1-888-341-1405, or tell us your story using our online contact form.

Trust Our Massachusetts Actemra Lawyers to Help

Contact the Boston law firm of Thornton Law Firm LLP online or at 1-888-341-1405 for a free consultation with a recognized leader in Massachusetts drug and medical device litigation. You have nothing to risk. We offer a fair and accurate assessment of your case.