While the media currently feeds a frenzy of excitement regarding the new arthritis gene therapy drug known as Tocilizumab, Hundreds of thousands of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are offered new hope in beating there debilitating condition.
The new drug is being heralded as a mile stone in rheumatoid arthritis treatment following a trial in which nearly half of patients on the medication found their condition did not get any worse. Tocilizumab, which will be sold under the brand name 'Actemra' works in conjunction with an existing treatment, methotrexate, and is administered monthly in hospital.
In the trial, taking methotrexate on its own only stopped symptoms in eight per cent of patients.Combined with Tocilizumab, 47 per cent of patients saw their condition halted. The drug is still under review in the UK by Nice ( National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) but is it expected to gain its UK marketing license in January 2009.
Nice caused some controversy recently by ruling that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers could not switch from one form of a pain relieving drug to another if the initial treatment did not work. There are fears that Tocilizumab - which could cost up to £10,000 per annum - may not become available on the NHS and if it does become available will it be available to the masses and not just the few.
Known side effects include diarrhea thalamic infarction, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, vomiting, upper respiratory tract inflammation, ligament rupture, hypoaesthesia, headache, cholelithiasis. gastrointestinal bleeding, gastroenteritis, bronchitis, Pneumonia and a potentially serious bacterial skin infection called cellulitis. Concerns have also been expressed in regard of cholesterol levels apparently Tocilizumab is thought to raise LDL, which is bad cholesterol, & could put patients at risk of heart attack or stroke.
Study participants who took Tocilizumab also had a higher risk of serious infections compared to study participants who were treated with methotrexate alone or with a combination of a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug and a placebo.
Reported problems with Tocilizumab in Japan,
Reported Tocilizumab problem on Oct 25, 2005. Male patient, 34 years of age, was treated with Tocilizumab. After the drug was administered, patient experienced the following problems/side effects: acidosis, alpha haemolytic streptococcal infection, bacteraemia, brain abscess, candidiasis, cerebral hemorrhage, dehydration, depressed level of consciousness, disseminated tuberculosis.
During the same period the patient was treated with Klaricid, Iscotin, Ethambutol, Hydrochloride, Rifadin & Pyrazinamide, following the medication the patient was hospitalized. Patient unfortunately died on 02/19/2006.
Another reported Tocilizumab problem was reported by a Physician from Japan on Nov 30, 2005. a female patient, 53 years old, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was treated with Tocilizumab. After the drug was administered the patient in question experienced the following side effects: condition aggravated, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, thalamic infarction.
Tocilizumab dosage: unknown
During the same period the patient was treated with Methotrexate, Predonine, Diclofenac, Misoprostol, Nifedipine, Arotinolol, The patient was hospitalized but later recovered.
These are just a couple of incidents which have been reported, however many more can be found if you Google Tocilizumab, of course, as with any medication, problems will exist due to their toxicity. Tocilizumab may be an excellent treatment for some, but perhaps not so for others.