For the latest COVID information Click Here.
**IMPORTANT NEWS FOR PATIENTS RE TOCILIZUMAB**
As of September 2021 all preparations of tocilizumab are in short supply and this is expected to continue until early 2022. Please contact your rheumatologist as soon as possible to discuss your options.
More information on the shortage can be found here.
Medication Information Updated April 2019
Tocilizumab (brand name Actemra) belongs to a new class of medicines called biological disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (biological DMARDs or bDMARDs).
bDMARDs have now been given to over a million people worldwide since their initial use in the late 1990s.
These medicines block natural substances called cytokines, which are found in excessive amounts in the blood and joints of people with rheumatoid arthritis.
The increased levels of cytokines cause inflammation, which results in symptoms of pain, joint swelling and stiffness, and can lead to joint damage.
By blocking the cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL- 6) tocilizumab reduces inflammation, lessens the symptoms and helps stop further joint damage.
Tocilizumab is also used to treat juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Unlike many standard antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) tocilizumab works relatively quickly. You may notice some relief of joint swelling, pain and stiffness within the first eight weeks of treatment.
If tocilizumab treatment is stopped for more than a few weeks there is a risk that your condition will get worse again. Continue with your treatment unless advised by your doctor or unless side effects develop (see side effects).
If you stop tocilizumab for any reason you must contact your doctor. Failure to do so may mean that your continued treatment may no longer be subsidised.
In view of the current prescribing restrictions for all bDMARDs:
Tocilizumab may be given as a drip (infusion) into the vein or as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection in the abdomen or thigh. The injections under the skin are given weekly and the infusion is given every four weeks. The infusion normally takes one hour.
The first injection or infusion will be followed by a period of observation for at least one hour to make sure you don’t have any side effects. After the first dose, your doctor may discuss whether you wish to inject further doses yourself.
If injecting yourself, be sure to follow the instructions carefully and change the injection site each time. Ask your doctor if you have any questions before starting the injections.
For people having tocilizumab every four weeks as a drip into a vein, the dose is based on body weight so each person’s dose may be different. For people having tocilizumab as an injection under the skin, the dose is usually 162mg (one pre-filled syringe).
Tocilizumab may be used with other arthritis medicines including:
There are separate information sheets for the medicines mentioned above.
Tocilizumab cannot be used with other bDMARDs.
You might experience side effects with your treatment. Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about possible side effects.