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Tocilizumab in short supply due to pandemic

Some individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are treated with a monthly infusion of the biologic tocilizumab (Actemra—Genentech). However, the drug is now in short supply because of the surge in COVID-19 cases.

In June, FDA gave tocilizumab its emergency use authorization to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. This monoclonal antibody can help reduce inflammation by blocking a protein called IL-6, which causes RA-related damage. That same protein plays a role in alleviating serious symptoms in people with severe COVID-19.  

Genentech estimates that demand for the drug increased by more than 400% beyond pre-COVID-19 levels in just 2 weeks. When RA patients go without the medication, even for 1 month, they can experience debilitating flare-ups. Genentech said additional supplies of the drug should be available by August 30, and a subcutaneous injectable form of tocilizumab that has not been authorized to treat COVID-19 is still available for RA patients. 

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