Studies have linked the rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra (tocilizumab injection) to serious side effects including stroke, interstitial lung disease, heart attack and more than 1,100 deaths.
In early 2010, the FDA first approved the Roche manufactured drug, Actemra to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The drug works by reducing inflammation.
Over 1.5 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, which is a debilitating autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints of the hands, feet, knees, elbows, and ankles. Inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joint tissue. This results in swelling and pain around the joints. If untreated, damage to cartilage and bone can occur. In some cases, irreversible joint deformity happens. This is why treatment is vital.
Roche cashed in on it, too. Actemra is Roche’s fifth highest-grossing drug, according to health and medicine publication STAT, netting $1.7 billion in global sales last year alone.
Actemra & Stroke Symptoms
eHealthMe, an online adverse report agency, studied almost 15,000 FDA adverse reports from people taking Actemra. There found that many experienced strokes after using Actemra. Stroke was especially high in females aged 60 or older and who took the drug for 6-12 months.
Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the 5th leading cause of death in the U.S.
To be prepared if you or someone you love is showing symptoms of a stroke, use the acronym FAST to remember and recognize the following signs and symptoms of a stroke:
- F: Face drooping Ask the person to smile, and see if one side is drooping. One side of the face may also be numb, and the smile may appear uneven.
- A: Arm weakness Ask the person to raise both arms. Is there weakness or numbness on one side? One arm drifting downward is a sign of one-sided arm weakness.
- S: Speech difficulty People having a stroke may slur their speech or have trouble speaking at all. Speech may be incomprehensible. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and look for any speech abnormality.
- T: Time to call 9-1-1 If a person shows any of the symptoms above, even if the symptoms went away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to a hospital immediately.
Lack of Actemra & Stroke Warning
Actemra is supposed to be competition for other drugs on the market such as Humira, Remicade, and Enbrel. These other drugs carry warnings about stroke, but Actemra does not. Not having a warning may suggest it has a lower risk, but in a comparative study, Actemra brings a 1.5-times higher risk of stroke.
New studies confirm those with RA are at a greater risk of stroke than others. The chronic inflammation was seen in RA escalates that risk. Researchers for years have uncovered this, yet the FDA still hasn’t added any warnings to the label.
In fact, the FDA has received thousands of complaints to the FDA over the years indicating heart failure is a side effect of Actemra. Yet, they haven’t demanded manufacturer Roche to provide adequate warning labels like similar drugs on the market.
The FDA should monitor the safety of the prescription medication. However, it doesn’t verify the adverse event reports it receives. If they did, they would have known to immediately consider warnings for stroke. New research has shown that the rate of stroke is increasing every year. In 2010, there were only a handful of cases. Last year, that number quadrupled. If the FDA examined each report, they would have ensured the warning label mentions stroke like other drugs on the market. Without the warning, patients are misled to thinking that Actemra is safer. It is not.
How We Can Help
When you experience side effects from a dangerous drug, it can have devastating effects on your entire life. You may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and damages. The types of losses that can be recovered include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of an ability to work; and
- Pain and suffering
If a person dies from complications from a drug, family members may be able to recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one, including:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses prior to death
- Loss of economic support; and
- Loss of companionship
If the conduct of a drug company in manufacturing and selling drug is found to be highly reckless, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the company and deter similar conduct in the future. If you developed myocardial infarction after taking Actemra, please speak to us to learn more about your rights.
Case evaluations are free of cost and without obligation. Call us today at (877) 513-9517 or contact us online to speak with an attorney about your options. We may be able to get you the help you need.