Medications

Kevzara

Kevzara (Sarilumab) is a biologic medicine that suppresses the immune system in order to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

The medication works by blocking the interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) found on the surface of cells within the body. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a signalling protein (cytokine) that plays an important role in immune response.

Kevzara serves as a therapy option for patients who had difficulty tolerating other classes of common rheumatology drugs, including Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs and Tumor Necrosis Factor blockers, or did not find them to be particularly effective.

Kevzara is often given in combination with methotrexate.

Taking Kevzara

Kevzara is available as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection.

Kevzara – Administration, Dose, and Frequency

Kevzara is taken as a subcutaneous injection every 2 weeks. The normal dose is 150-200 mg depending on the patient’s body weight.

Watch our video to learn how inject Kevzara at home:

Subcutaneous injections (under the skin injections) are easy to do compared to other types of injections. A small needle pokes just under the skin to deliver medicine into the “fatty tissue” below.

It can take 6 to 12 weeks for patients to feel the effects of this medication.

The manufacturer of Kevzara offers a support program to Canadian patients that are prescribed the medication:

Important Tests and Risks

Risk of Infection

Kevzara can make it a bit harder for people to fight off infections.

Patients taking this medicine should call their doctor they have a fever, think they have an infection, or have been prescribed antibiotics to treat an infection.

Patients should coordinate with their doctor to stop treatment before any surgery. It can be re-started once things have healed and there’s no sign of infection. Most patients stop the medication two to four weeks before surgery. It can be restarted 10-14 days after the surgery as long as there is no sign of infection.

Patients should discuss all vaccinations with their doctor because some (live vaccines) are not advisable to get while taking Kevzara.

Tuberculosis (TB) Test

All patients should have a TB (tuberculosis) skin test and a chest x-ray before starting Kevzara.

Regular Blood Tests

It is important for patients who are taking Kevzara to get regular blood tests as requested by their doctor.

Blood tests are necessary to make sure Kevzara isn’t affecting the liver, blood counts, or cholesterol levels.

Science

How Kevzara Works

Kevzara works by blocking the interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) found on the surface of cells within the body.

Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a signalling protein, or cytokine, that plays an important role in the body’s immune response.

IL-6 is secreted by the immune system’s white blood cells, including T-cells and macrophages, to stimulate immune response. They might release IL-6 during an infection, or after an injury that damages tissue. This release leads to inflammation.

Some patients with arthritis might have abnormally high IL-6 levels. This can cause pain and swelling (inflammation) in the joints.

Kevzara is a type of protein known as a monoclonal antibody that blocks IL-6 from working.

In blocking IL-6, Kevzara suppresses the body’s immune system. Although this suppression can make it slightly harder for patients to fight off infections, it also helps to stabilize an overactive immune system.

Safety

Side Effects

Kevzara (sarilumab) can cause headaches or pain/redness/swelling at the injection site. People taking this medication should call their doctor if these symptoms persist or get worse.

Kevzara can rarely cause an allergic reaction during an infusion.

Kevzara has rarely been associated with an injury to the bowel (holes in the wall of the bowel). Patients should tell their doctor if they develop stomach pain during treatment with this medicine.

Patients have very rarely developed conditions of the nervous system while taking Kevzara.

Who Should NOT Take Kevzara

People that should NOT be taking Kevzara include:

  • Anyone who has had a previous serious allergic reaction to Kevzara
  • Pregnant women, women who are planning on becoming pregnant in the near future, women who are currently breastfeeding
  • People with an active infection (such as tuberculosis)
  • Possibly people who have cancer or have had a past history of certain cancers.

People taking Kevzara who are about to have surgery should discuss stopping the medication with their doctor.

When to Call a Doctor

People taking Kevzara should call their doctor if they feel sick and want to stop, or if they are concerned about any side effects.

Other reasons for people taking Kevzara to call a doctor include:

  • Fever or possible infection
  • Upcoming surgery
  • Becoming pregnant
  • Before getting any vaccinations
  • Developing a rash
  • Developing stomach pain

Drug Identification Number (DIN)

02460521 (150 mg), 02460548 (200 mg)