FDA approves new drug to treat arthritis

FDA officials have recently approved a drug known as Acterma for treating moderate to severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis in patients non-responsive to TNF inhibitors.

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, is typically a progressive illness, leading to long-term destruction and functional disability.

There is no known cure for the condition; various drugs such as TNF inhibitors, however, are commonly prescribed for these patients aiming to reduce joint inflammation and pain.

According to the statement recently released by FDA, Actemra, given once-monthly through hour-long infusions, is the first IL-6 inhibitor approved for treating arthritis.

Also known as tocilizumab, Actemra cannot be used in combination with TNF inhibitors or other biologic treatments commonly used in arthritis. Its simultaneous use with disease-modifying drugs such as methotrexate, however, seems to be acceptable.

The main side effects of Actemra include serious infections, diverticulitis, and severe allergic reactions. Increased levels of cholesterol and blood fats are also seen in some of these patients.

Officials hope to extend the use of the drug from relatively severe conditions to earlier stages of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


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