“The experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra should be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an expert panel advising the agency recommended Tuesday.
The advisors voted 10-1 in favor of approval, despite the drug’s serious side effects including possible infections, liver damage and cancer, the Associated Press reported. Last week, the FDA posted documents on its Web site that said Actemra appeared effective in treating moderate-to-severe RA, including symptoms such as disabling joint damage and pain.
RA differs from typical age-related arthritis, which involves wear and tear on the joints as people get older. In RA, by contrast, the body’s immune system actually attacks the joints. About 2.5 million Americans have the condition, and most people get it in early adulthood or middle age, the AP said.
While most arthritis medications are designed to relieve pain, Actemra is a genetically engineered drug that blocks a protein called IL-6, which has been linked to the body’s inflammatory response.
Actemra is made by Hoffman-La Roche Inc.
The full FDA generally follows the suggestions of its advisory panels, though it isn’t bound to do so.”