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What Is Tocilizumab Used For?

Tocilizumab can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in adults. It is also approved to treat idiopathic arthritis in children age 2 through 17. In certain situations, a healthcare provider may recommend the drug for something other than the condition it is licensed to treat. For example, possible off-label uses of tocilizumab could include the treatment of Castleman's disease.

An Introduction to the Uses of Tocilizumab

Tocilizumab (Actemra®) is a prescription medication licensed to treat the following conditions:

Tocilizumab for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Tocilizumab is approved to treat moderate-to-severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults. Specifically, it is approved only for people who have not responded well to at least one disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD).
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. This means that, for some reason, the immune system mistakes a person's own cells as invaders and attacks them, causing damage. As with many other autoimmune diseases, scientists still do not know the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
There are many rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, such as chronic pain and tender, warm, and swollen joints. Rheumatoid arthritis treatment usually includes medications. There are four different types of rheumatoid arthritis medication, including:
  • Analgesics (pain relievers), including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Biological response modifiers (sometimes known as biological DMARDs).
Tocilizumab is a biological response modifier, which means it targets (and "modifies") specific parts of the immune system. Biological response modifiers are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, and some types of cancer. As mentioned previously, tocilizumab is approved for use in people who have unsuccessfully tried one or more TNF blockers (which are a different subset of the biological response modifiers).
Tocilizumab can be used in combination with other rheumatoid medications, with the exception of biological response modifiers. This combination could theoretically increase the risk of serious infections (this risk is still theoretical, as tocilizumab has not been studied in combination with other biological response modifiers).
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Tocilizumab Drug Information

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