ACTEMRA: Why Is Genentech Ignoring Wrongful Death, Heart Attack and Stroke Injuries?

ACTEMRA: Why Is Genentech-Roche Ignoring Ever Increasing Evidence Of Wrongful Deaths, Heart Attack and Stroke Injuries?

By Mark A. York

Mass Tort Nexus (September 26, 2017)











Many newer rheumatoid arthritis drugs have strong warnings known as black box warnings, dictated by FDA guidelines, which warn of the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, lung disease, and other injuries, but Actemra warnings were not issued by the drug maker when the medication was introduced.

Actemra, a rheumatoid arthritis medication by Roche-Genentech, has now been linked to increased heart attacks, stroke and lung interstitial disease among other side effects that the maker, Genentech did not warn the public about.

Blockbuster Drug

Actemra is a humanized interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antagonist approved for treatment of adults with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis. It was approved in 2010 and has been prescribed to more than 760,000 patients. The drug was responsible for $1.7 billion in revenue for Genentech and Roche last year and considered a blockbuster.

Actemra Wrongful Death

Actemra has been found to be the cause of thousands of deaths and critical illnesses, according to recent reports, it’s now documented that hundreds of patients taking the RA drug died from cardiovascular and pulmonary complications – medical issues not usually known to be  associated with the drug. According to the investigation, Actemra did not carry warning labels about the possible side effects, unlike many competing RA drugs. Stat said it investigated more than 500,000 side effect reports for RA drugs and “found clear evidence” that the risks of the side effects, such as heart attack or stroke, “were as high or higher for Actemra patients than for patients taking some competing drugs.” The difference Stat stressed is that Actemra, unlike the other RA drugs, does not carry a warning label for those side effects.

What is Actemra?

Actemra (tocilizumab) is Genentech’s newest blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug introduced by parent company Roche in 2010. It is given to patients as an intravenous infusion on a monthly basis or as a subcutaneous (under the skin) injection on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Actemra is a monoclonal antibody drug, approved by the FDA to treat autoimmune disorders including Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (PJIA), and Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (SJIA) and was recently approved for the treatment of Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA).

In autoimmune disorders like RA, the immune system begins to attack and destroy the body’s own joint or other tissue. Actemra works to suppress the immune system by blocking interleukin-6, an immune messenger.

Actemra is Genentech’s Poster Drug?

Roche-Genentech touted their new rheumatoid arthritis drug as a “unique” breakthrough treatment, and it has since become a blockbuster drug, generating $1.6 billion in sales in 2016. Actemra competes with other popular and widely used rheumatoid arthritis drugs already on the market, including Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade.

Actemra Has Caused Serious Heart and Lung Injuries


Competitor RA drugs Enbrel, Humira and Remicade contained strong warnings about the heart risks and other serious health problems, but Actemra warnings did not indicate that patients may develop heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, lung disease, pancreatitis or other serious side effects.

Unfortunately, many doctors and patients were falsely led to believe that Actemra was safer, and Actemra may have actually caused these same, or even increased a greater risk of heart problems, lung complications, and other injuries.

Report Highlights Failure to Warn About Actemra Risks

In June 2017, the national publication released a detailed review of adverse event reports submitted to the FDA involving Actemra problems. The report raised a serious question about the failure to warn about the risk of cardiovascular problems, pancreatitis, lung disease and other injuries that have been experienced by users nationwide.

STAT News researchers examined thousands of serious adverse event reports filed with the FDA and found that 1,128 cardiac and respiratory deaths in Actemra patients had been reported to the FDA, along with thousands of other serious adverse events including heart attack, stroke, interstitial lung disease, gastrointestinal perforation and others.

STAT identified at least 13,500 reports of issues following an Actemra infusion or injection, which were submitted to the FDA between 2010 and 2016.

Actemra was linked to a higher-than-expected number of serious adverse event reports when compared with the more widely used drugs Humira, Remicade and Enbrel, which each have warnings about risks that users may face.

Actemra Serious Adverse Events

Actemra patients were more likely to have a lung disease event than patients taking Remicade and just as likely as those using Humira.

Actemra patients were 1.5 times more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke as those using Enbrel.

Will Actemra Be The Next MDL?

According to law firm and other third party investigations reviewing the Actemra drug for potential legal action against Roche and Genentech, the drug maker placed their desire for profits before patient safety by withholding important warnings about the risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, lung disease, pancreatitis and other harmful side effects. When the catastrophic adverse events started to be known to the company, a boardroom decision was made to disregard the ever increasing adverse events, including those of patients dying after taking the drug. Where the Actemra investigations lead to will be known later in 2017, as determinations on taking legal action are made.


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