A new investigation published in STAT has called Actemra’s safety into question after it is allegedly associated with life-threatening side effects and may have caused hundreds of deaths.

What is Actemra?

Actemra (known generically as tocilizumab) is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) medication. It is believed to work by directly blocking the action of a protein in your body called interleukin-6 (IL-6); a protein that is thought to play a part in RA.

Actemra is approved for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and most recently for giant cell arteritis. Patients can receive their medication either intravenously or by Actemra injection.

According to STAT, Actemra is used by more than 760,000 patients around the world and generated sales of around $1.7 billion in 2016. In addition to being approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Actemra has been prescribed off-label to treat other conditions.

What are the side affects of Actemra?

STAT analyzed more than 500,000 side-effect reports on rheumatoid arthritis drugs, and found clear evidence that the risks of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and other conditions were as high or higher for Actemra patients than for patients taking some competing drugs. Most of those medications warn about these risks on their labels. Actemra does not.

The following side effects have been reportedly linked to Actemra use:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Tremors
  • Tachycardia
  • Hair loss
  • Memory lapses/mental sluggishness

Do competing drugs have similar side effects?

Drugs that compete with Actemra include Remicade, Humira, and Enbrel. Studies have found that, at best, Actemra has similar rates of side effects as the other three drugs.

Though, as Charles Piller of STAT points out, “Actemra might not be more dangerous than other arthritis drugs – many of which can have lethal side effects – but patients and doctors are misled into believing it might be safer because frequently reported serious problems aren’t noted on its warning label.”


If you or a loved one has been affected by Actemra, an experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal system and seek justice.

At The Hannon Law Firm, LLC, we have 22 years of experience Seeking Justice with Compassion (SM). Our legal team is sensitive to the needs of individuals with personal injuries and knows how traumatic injuries can impact your entire family.

You can call our office at 303-861-8800 or contact us through the form below.