Tocilizumab (Actemra®)

What is Tocilizumab (Actemra®)?

Tocilizumab is in a class of drugs called biologics.  Tocilizumab is a treatment for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. You must have failed to have a response to another type of biologic, called a TNF inhibitor, to receive Tocilizumab.  Tocilizumab blocks a substance called IL-6, a part of the inflammation.  People with RA often have too much IL-6.   Tocilizumab is commonly known as Actemraâ.

How do I take it?      

Tocilizumab is given as an IV infusion. You will have this medicine at a center where nurses will place a needle in your vein and give you the medicine through it.  It takes about one hour for the medicine to be infused.  Tocilizumab is given every 4 weeks.

What about side effects?

  • Some people have serious infections while taking Tocilizumab.  You should call your doctor if you think you have an infection.
  • You should have a TB (tuberculosis) test and a test for hepatitis B before beginning Tocilizumab. 
  • Other side effects may include changes in your liver and other blood tests.  It is important to have any blood tests that your doctor orders.  You doctor will monitor this blood work to look for problems.
  • You should let your doctor know if you are planning any surgery.  Tocilizumab affects your immune system and may affect healing. 

What about other medications?

When you are taking Tocilizumab, it is very important that your doctors know if you are taking any other medicine. This includes prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as birth control pills, vitamins, and herbal supplements.  Tocilizumab can be taken with other medications – NSAIDS (Celebrexâ, ibuprofen, naproxen), prednisone, methotrexate, and hydroxychloroquine.

What else should I know?

You must continue your regular visits to the rheumatologist. Your doctor will monitor you for any improvements in your disease and for any signs of infections. Most patients notice an improvement in symptoms after the first or second injection.

Updated: April 25, 2012

Victoria Ruffing, RN

About Victoria Ruffing, RN

Ms. Ruffing has been a member of the Arthritis Center since 2000, currently serving as the Nurse Manager. She is a critical member of our patient care team.