Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, announced today (May 22, 2017) that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Actemra
(tocilizumab) subcutaneous injection for the treatment of GCA, a chronic and severe autoimmune condition. Actemra is the first therapy approved by the FDA for the treatment of adult patients with GCA. This is the sixth FDA approval for Actemra since the medicine was launched in 2010.
“Today’s FDA decision means people living with giant cell arteritis will, for the first time, have an FDA-approved treatment option for this debilitating disease,” said Sandra Horning, M.D., chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. “With no new treatments in more than 50 years, this approval could be transformational for people with GCA and for their physicians.”
The approval is based on the positive outcome of the Phase III GiACTA study evaluating Actemra in patients with GCA. The results showed that Actemra, initially combined with a six-month steroid (glucocorticoid) regimen, more effectively sustained remission through 52 weeks (56 percent in the Actemra weekly group and 53.1 percent in the Actemra bi-weekly group) compared to placebo combined with a 26-week steroid taper (14 percent) and placebo combined with a 52-week steroid taper (17.6 percent).
About the GiACTA study
GiACTA (NCT01791153) is a Phase III, global, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigating the efficacy and safety of Actemra as a novel treatment for GCA. It is the first successful clinical trial conducted in GCA and the first to use blinded, variable-dose, variable-duration steroid regimens. The multicenter study was conducted in 251 patients across 76 sites in 14 countries. The primary endpoint was evaluated at 52 weeks.
About Giant Cell Arteritis
GCA, also known as temporal arteritis (TA), affects an estimated 228,000 people over the age of 50 in the U.S., and the disease is two to three times more likely to affect women than men.
GCA is often difficult to diagnose because of the wide and variable spectrum of signs and symptoms. GCA can cause severe headaches, jaw pain and visual symptoms and if left untreated, can lead to blindness, aortic aneurysm or stroke.
Treatment to date for people with GCA has been limited to high-dose steroids that play a role as an effective ‘emergency’ treatment option to prevent damage such as vision loss.
Due to the variability of symptoms, complexity of the disease and disease complications, people with GCA are often seen by several physicians including rheumatologists, ophthalmologists and neurologists.
Actemra is the first humanized interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist approved for the treatment of adult patients with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who have used one or more disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate (MTX), that did not provide enough relief. The extensive Actemra RA IV clinical development program included five Phase III clinical studies and enrolled more than 4,000 people with RA in 41 countries. The Actemra RA subcutaneous clinical development program included two Phase III clinical studies and enrolled more than 1,800 people with RA in 33 countries. In addition, Actemra is also used as an IV formulation for patients with active polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (PJIA) or systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA) two years of age and older. Actemra is not approved for subcutaneous use in people with PJIA or SJIA. It is not known if Actemra is safe and effective in children with PJIA or SJIA under two years of age or in children with conditions other than PJIA or SJIA.
Actemra is intended for use under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner.
Important Safety Information
Actemra can cause serious side effects. Actemra changes the way a patient’s immune system works. This can make a patient more likely to get infections or make any current infection worse. Some people taking Actemra have died from these infections.
Actemra can cause other serious side effects. These include:
Changes in blood test results, including low neutrophil (white blood cells) and platelet (platelets help the blood to clot) counts, and increases in certain liver function test levels and blood cholesterol levels
An increased risk of certain cancers by changing the way a patient’s immune system works
Hepatitis B infection
Serious allergic reactions, including death. These may happen with Actemra infusions or injections, even if they did not occur with an earlier infusion or injection.
Nervous system problems
Patients should not receive Actemra if they are allergic to Actemra or if they have had a bad reaction to Actemra previously.
Common side effects in patients treated with Actemra:
Patients should tell their doctor if they have these or any other side effect that bothers them or does not go away:
Upper respiratory tract infections (like common cold and sinus infections)
Increased blood pressure (also called hypertension)
Injection site reactions
Actemra & pregnancy:
Patients should tell their doctor if they are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, plan to breastfeed, or are breastfeeding. The patient and their doctor should decide if the patient will take Actemra or breastfeed. Patients should not do both. If a patient is pregnant and taking Actemra, they should join the pregnancy registry. To learn more, patients should call 1-877-311-8972 or talk to their doctor to register.
Patients should tell their doctor right away if they are experiencing any side effects. Report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or
. Report side effects to Genentech at 1-888-835-2555.
for the full Prescribing Information, including Boxed Warning and Medication Guide, for additional Important Safety Information or call 1-800-ACTEMRA (228-3672).
Actemra is part of a co-development agreement with Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. and has been approved in Japan since June 2005. Actemra is approved in the European Union, where it is known as RoActemra, and several other countries, including China, India, Brazil, Switzerland and Australia.
Founded more than 40 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, California. For additional information about the company, please visit
Stone JH, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Tocilizumab in Patients with Giant Cell Arteritis: Primary and Secondary Outcomes from a Phase 3, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial [abstract]. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2016; 68 (suppl 10).
Lawrence RC, et al. Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States, Part II. Arthritis Rheum. 2008; 58: 26-35.
Bhat S, et al. Giant cell arteritis. Midlife and Beyond, GM. Rheumatology. February 2010; 071-079.®