"June 7, 2012 -- A new study shows that the drug Actemra may be a more effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis than the drug Humira when the medications are used by themselves.
Both medications are in a class called biologics, whi"...
Serious and sometimes fatal infections due to bacterial, mycobacterial, invasive fungal, viral, protozoal, or other opportunistic pathogens have been reported in patients receiving immunosuppressive agents including ACTEMRA for rheumatoid arthritis. The most common serious infections included pneumonia, urinary tract infection, cellulitis, herpes zoster, gastroenteritis, diverticulitis, sepsis and bacterial arthritis [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. Among opportunistic infections, tuberculosis, cryptococcus, aspergillosis, candidiasis, and pneumocystosis were reported with ACTEMRA. Other serious infections, not reported in clinical studies, may also occur (e.g., histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis, listeriosis). Patients have presented with disseminated rather than localized disease, and were often taking concomitant immunosuppressants such as methotrexate or corticosteroids which in addition to rheumatoid arthritis may predispose them to infections.
Do not administer ACTEMRA in patients with an active infection, including localized infections. The risks and benefits of treatment should be considered prior to initiating ACTEMRA in patients:
- with chronic or recurrent infection;
- who have been exposed to tuberculosis;
- with a history of serious or an opportunistic infection;
- who have resided or traveled in areas of endemic tuberculosis or endemic mycoses; or
- with underlying conditions that may predispose them to infection.
Closely monitor patients for the development of signs and symptoms of infection during and after treatment with ACTEMRA, as signs and symptoms of acute inflammation may be lessened due to suppression of the acute phase reactants [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, ADVERSE REACTIONS, and PATIENT INFORMATION].
Hold ACTEMRA if a patient develops a serious infection, an opportunistic infection, or sepsis. A patient who develops a new infection during treatment with ACTEMRA should undergo a prompt and complete diagnostic workup appropriate for an immunocompromised patient, initiate appropriate antimicrobial therapy, and closely monitor the patient.
Evaluate patients for tuberculosis risk factors and test for latent infection prior to initiating ACTEMRA.
Consider anti-tuberculosis therapy prior to initiation of ACTEMRA in patients with a past history of latent or active tuberculosis in whom an adequate course of treatment cannot be confirmed, and for patients with a negative test for latent tuberculosis but having risk factors for tuberculosis infection. Consultation with a physician with expertise in the treatment of tuberculosis is recommended to aid in the decision whether initiating anti-tuberculosis therapy is appropriate for an individual patient.
Closely monitor patients for the development of signs and symptoms of tuberculosis including patients who tested negative for latent tuberculosis infection prior to initiating therapy.
It is recommended that patients be screened for latent tuberculosis infection prior to starting ACTEMRA. The incidence of tuberculosis in worldwide clinical development programs is 0.1%. Patients with latent tuberculosis should be treated with standard antimycobacterial therapy before initiating ACTEMRA.
Viral reactivation has been reported with immunosuppressive biologic therapies and cases of herpes zoster exacerbation were observed in clinical studies with ACTEMRA. No cases of Hepatitis B reactivation were observed in the trials; however patients who screened positive for hepatitis were excluded.
Events of gastrointestinal perforation have been reported in clinical trials, primarily as complications of diverticulitis in RA patients. Use ACTEMRA with caution in patients who may be at increased risk for gastrointestinal perforation. Promptly evaluate patients presenting with new onset abdominal symptoms for early identification of gastrointestinal perforation [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].
Treatment with ACTEMRA was associated with a higher incidence of neutropenia. Infections have been uncommonly reported in association with treatment-related neutropenia in long-term extension studies and postmarketing clinical experience.
- It is not recommended to initiate ACTEMRA treatment in patients with a low neutrophil count, i.e., absolute neutrophil count (ANC) less than 2000 per mm³. In patients who develop an absolute neutrophil count less than 500 per mm³treatment is not recommended.
- Monitor neutrophils 4 to 8 weeks after start of therapy and every 3 months thereafter [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY]. For recommended modifications based on ANC results see [DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].
Treatment with ACTEMRA was associated with a reduction in platelet counts. Treatment-related reduction in platelets was not associated with serious bleeding events in clinical trials [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].
- It is not recommended to initiate ACTEMRA treatment in patients with a platelet count below 100,000 per mm³. In patients who develop a platelet count less than 50,000 per mm³treatment is not recommended.
- Monitor platelets 4 to 8 weeks after start of therapy and every 3 months thereafter. For recommended modifications based on platelet counts see [DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].
Elevated Liver Enzymes
Treatment with ACTEMRA was associated with a higher incidence of transaminase elevations. These elevations did not result in apparent permanent or clinically evident hepatic injury in clinical trials [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. Increased frequency and magnitude of these elevations was observed when potentially hepatotoxic drugs (e.g., MTX) were used in combination with ACTEMRA.
In one case, a patient who had received ACTEMRA 8 mg per kg monotherapy without elevations in transaminases experienced elevation in AST to above 10x ULN and elevation in ALT to above 16x ULN when MTX was initiated in combination with ACTEMRA. Transaminases normalized when both treatments were held, but elevations recurred when MTX and ACTEMRA were restarted at lower doses. Elevations resolved when MTX and ACTEMRA were discontinued.
- It is not recommended to initiate ACTEMRA treatment in patients with elevated transaminases ALT or AST greater than 1.5x ULN. In patients who develop elevated ALT or AST greater than 5x ULN treatment is not recommended.
- Monitor ALT and AST levels 4 to 8 weeks after start of therapy and every 3 months thereafter. When clinically indicated, other liver function tests such as bilirubin should be considered. For recommended modifications based on transaminases see [DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].
- Assess lipid parameters approximately 4 to 8 weeks following initiation of ACTEMRA therapy, then at approximately 24 week intervals.
- Manage patients according to clinical guidelines [e.g., National Cholesterol Educational Program (NCEP)] for the management of hyperlipidemia.
Polyarticular and Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
A similar pattern of liver enzyme elevation, low neutrophil count, low platelet count and lipid elevations is noted with ACTEMRA treatment in the PJIA and SJIA populations. Monitor neutrophils, platelets, ALT and AST at the time of the second infusion and thereafter every 4 to 8 weeks for PJIA and every 2 to 4 weeks for SJIA. Monitor lipids as above for RA [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].
The impact of treatment with ACTEMRA on the development of malignancies is not known but malignancies were observed in clinical studies [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. ACTEMRA is an immunosuppressant, and treatment with immunosuppressants may result in an increased risk of malignancies.
Hypersensitivity Reactions, Including Anaphylaxis
Hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis, have been reported in association with ACTEMRA [see ADVERSE REACTIONS] and anaphylactic events with a fatal outcome have been reported with intravenous infusion of ACTEMRA. Anaphylaxis and other hypersensitivity reactions that required treatment discontinuation were reported in 0.1% (3 out of 2644) of patients in the 6-month controlled trials of intravenous ACTEMRA, 0.2% (8 out of 4009) of patients in the intravenous all-exposure RA population, 0.7% (8 out of 1068) in the subcutaneous 6-month controlled RA trials, and in 0.7% (10 out of 1465) of patients in the subcutaneous all-exposure population. In the SJIA controlled trial with intravenous ACTEMRA, 1 out of 112 patients (0.9%) experienced hypersensitivity reactions that required treatment discontinuation. In the PJIA controlled trial with intravenous ACTEMRA, 0 out of 188 patients (0%) in the ACTEMRA all-exposure population experienced hypersensitivity reactions that required treatment discontinuation. Reactions that required treatment discontinuation included generalized erythema, rash, and uticaria. Injection site reactions were categorized separately [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].
In the postmarketing setting, events of hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis and death have occurred in patients treated with a range of doses of intravenous ACTEMRA, with or without concomitant arthritis therapies. Events have occurred in patients who received premedication. Hypersensitivity, including anaphylaxis events, have occurred both with and without previous hypersensitivity reactions and as early as the first infusion of ACTEMRA [see ADVERSE REACTIONS]. ACTEMRA for intravenous use should only be infused by a healthcare professional with appropriate medical support to manage anaphylaxis. For ACTEMRA subcutaneous injection, advise patients to seek immediate medical attention if they experience any symptoms of a hypersensitivity reaction. If anaphylaxis or other hypersensitivity reaction occurs, stop administration of ACTEMRA immediately and discontinue ACTEMRA permanently. Do not administer ACTEMRA to patients with known hypersensitivity to ACTEMRA [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and ADVERSE REACTIONS].
The impact of treatment with ACTEMRA on demyelinating disorders is not known, but multiple sclerosis and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy were reported rarely in RA clinical studies. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms potentially indicative of demyelinating disorders. Prescribers should exercise caution in considering the use of ACTEMRA in patients with preexisting or recent onset demyelinating disorders.
Active Hepatic Disease and Hepatic Impairment
Treatment with ACTEMRA is not recommended in patients with active hepatic disease or hepatic impairment [see ADVERSE REACTIONS, Use In Specific Populations].
Avoid use of live vaccines concurrently with ACTEMRA as clinical safety has not been established. No data are available on the secondary transmission of infection from persons receiving live vaccines to patients receiving ACTEMRA.
No data are available on the effectiveness of vaccination in patients receiving ACTEMRA. Because IL-6 inhibition may interfere with the normal immune response to new antigens, it is recommended that all patients, particularly PJIA and SJIA patients, if possible, be brought up to date with all immunizations in agreement with current immunization guidelines prior to initiating ACTEMRA therapy. The interval between live vaccinations and initiation of ACTEMRA therapy should be in accordance with current vaccination guidelines regarding immunosuppressive agents.
Patient Counseling Information
See FDA-approved patient labeling (Medication Guide)
Advise patients and parents or guardians of minors with PJIA or SJIA of the potential benefits and risks of ACTEMRA. Physicians should instruct their patients to read the Medication Guide before starting ACTEMRA therapy.
Inform patients that ACTEMRA may lower their resistance to infections. Instruct the patient of the importance of contacting their doctor immediately when symptoms suggesting infection appear in order to assure rapid evaluation and appropriate treatment.
- Gastrointestinal Perforation
Inform patients that some patients who have been treated with ACTEMRA have had serious side effects in the stomach and intestines. Instruct the patient of the importance of contacting their doctor immediately when symptoms of severe, persistent abdominal pain appear to assure rapid evaluation and appropriate treatment.
- Hypersensitivity and Serious Allergic Reactions
Assess patient suitability for home use for SC injection. Inform patients that some patients who have been treated with ACTEMRA have developed serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Advise patients to seek immediate medical attention if they experience any symptom of serious allergic reactions.
Instruction on Injection Technique
Perform the first injection under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. If a patient or caregiver is to administer subcutaneous ACTEMRA, instruct him/her in injection techniques and assess his/her ability to inject subcutaneously to ensure proper administration of subcutaneous ACTEMRA and the suitability for home use [See Patient Instructions for Use].
Prior to use, remove the prefilled syringe from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature outside of the carton for 30 minutes, out of the reach of children. Do not warm ACTEMRA in any other way.
Advise patients to consult their healthcare provider if the full dose is not received.
A puncture-resistant container for disposal of needles and syringes should be used and should be kept out of the reach of children. Instruct patients or caregivers in the technique as well as proper syringe and needle disposal, and caution against reuse of these items.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
No long-term animal studies have been performed to establish the carcinogenicity potential of tocilizumab.
Impairment of Fertility
Fertility studies conducted in male and female mice using a murine analogue of tocilizumab administered by the intravenous route at a dose of 50 mg/kg every three days showed no impairment of fertility.
Use In Specific Populations
Pregnancy Category C.
Pregnancy Exposure Registry
There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to ACTEMRA during pregnancy. Physicians are encouraged to register patients and pregnant women are encouraged to register themselves by calling 1-877-311-8972.
Adequate and well-controlled studies with ACTEMRA have not been conducted in pregnant women. In animal reproduction studies, administration of tocilizumab to cynomolgus monkeys during organogenesis caused abortion/embryo-fetal death at dose exposures 1.25 times the human dose exposure of 8 mg per kg every 2 to 4 weeks. The incidence of malformations and pregnancy loss in human pregnancies has not been established for ACTEMRA. However, all pregnancies, regardless of drug exposure, have a background rate of 2 to 4% for major malformations, and 15 to 20% for pregnancy loss. ACTEMRA should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
In general, monoclonal antibodies are transported across the placenta in a linear fashion as pregnancy progresses, with the largest amount transferred during the third trimester.
An embryo-fetal developmental toxicity study was performed in which pregnant cynomolgus monkeys were treated intravenously with tocilizumab (daily doses of 2, 10, or 50 mg per kg from gestation day 20-50) during organogenesis. Although there was no evidence for a teratogenic/dysmorphogenic effect at any dose, tocilizumab produced an increase in the incidence of abortion/embryo-fetal death at 10 mg per kg and 50 mg per kg doses (1.25 and 6.25 times the human dose of 8 mg per kg every 2 to 4 weeks based on a mg per kg comparison). Testing of a murine analogue of tocilizumab in mice did not yield any evidence of harm to offspring during the pre- and postnatal development phase when dosed at 50 mg per kg intravenously with treatment every three days from implantation until day 21 after delivery (weaning). There was no evidence for any functional impairment of the development and behavior, learning ability, immune competence and fertility of the offspring.
It is not known whether tocilizumab is present in human milk or if it would be absorbed systemically in a breastfed infant after ingestion. IgG is excreted in human milk and therefore it is expected that tocilizumab could be present in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from ACTEMRA, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.
ACTEMRA by intravenous use is indicated for the treatment of pediatric patients with:
- Active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis in patients 2 years of age and older
- Active polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis in patients 2 years of age and older
Safety and effectiveness of ACTEMRA in pediatric patients with conditions other than PJIA or SJIA have not been established. Children under the age of two have not been studied. SC administration has not been studied in pediatric patients. Testing of a murine analogue of tocilizumab did not exert toxicity in juvenile mice. In particular, there was no impairment of skeletal growth, immune function and sexual maturation.
Of the 2644 patients who received ACTEMRA in Studies I to V [see Clinical Studies], a total of 435 rheumatoid arthritis patients were 65 years of age and older, including 50 patients 75 years and older. Of the 1069 patients who received ACTEMRA-SC in studies SC-I and SC-II there were 295 patients 65 years of age and older, including 41 patients 75 years and older. The frequency of serious infection among ACTEMRA treated subjects 65 years of age and older was higher than those under the age of 65. As there is a higher incidence of infections in the elderly population in general, caution should be used when treating the elderly.
The safety and efficacy of ACTEMRA have not been studied in patients with hepatic impairment, including patients with positive HBV and HCV serology [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
No dose adjustment is required in patients with mild renal impairment. ACTEMRA has not been studied in patients with moderate to severe renal impairment [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/4/2013
Additional Actemra Information
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