Kevzara (sarilumab), is a prescription medication given to patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, which is when there is inflammation (pain and swelling) of the joints in the affected areas of the body. Kevzara can be given alone or in combination with other medications to treat arthritis.
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Before starting Kevzara, it is essential to inform your provider about the following to make sure the medication is as safe for you as possible:
- Your medical conditions. For example, if you have or had any diseases like diabetes, AIDS, hepatitis, cancer, immune disorders, a weak immune system, or any active or chronic infections, inform your doctor.
- If you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant.
- All of the medications you’re taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as dietary supplements.
- Your vaccine and immunization history. If you have received any vaccines or are scheduled for any upcoming vaccination dose, notify your provider.
What Is Kevzara?
Kevzara is a medication known as a human monoclonal antibody. It is an FDA-approved biological medication given to adults for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Monoclonal antibodies are proteins that change your immune response to help treat inflammatory conditions like RA.
What Is Kevzara Used To Treat?
Kevzara is used to treat moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis in adults who haven’t achieved the desired response from other drugs that treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases (disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs). Kevzara is considered a treatment option for RA when other medications either have failed to help treat RA symptoms or have caused too many side effects.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease that causes swelling, pain, and inflammation in the affected joints. In this autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells of the body, leading to inflammation, pain, and swelling in the joints of the hands, feet, and knees.
How Does It Work?
Kevzara works by blocking a protein called interleukin-6 (IL-6) from binding to its receptors in the body. Interleukin-6 is an immune protein that causes inflammation. By stopping IL-6 from binding to its receptor, inflammation is lowered, which helps to treat RA symptoms, like pain and swelling in joints.
What Is the Dose of Kevzara?
The usual dose of Kevzara is 200 mg injected under the skin (subcutaneous) every 2 weeks. Your provider might lower your dose to 150 mg every 2 weeks if you develop a serious infection or if your platelets or white blood cells are low, or liver enzymes are high.
Dosage Forms and Strengths
Kevzara is available as a pre-filled, single-dose syringe or pre-filled, single-dose pen and comes in two strengths:
- 150 mg/1.14 ml (150 mg of the active drug is present in 1.14 ml of solution)
- 200 mg/1.14 ml (200 mg of the active drug is present in 1.14 ml of solution)
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Proper Use, Storage, and Disposal
- Kevzara is given as a subcutaneous injection, meaning an injection under the skin in your upper arm, front of your thigh, or your belly (at least 2 inches away from your belly button). Rotate the injection sites each time you administer your dose to avoid irritating or hurting yourself.
- Your provider might give you the first few doses in an office or clinic. If you’re interested in learning how to give yourself the shots at home, ask your provider if this is possible so you can be properly trained on how to correctly administer the medication.
- Store Kevzara in a refrigerator (36°F to 46°F) in the original carton to protect it from light. When you’re ready to give yourself the medication, take it out of the carton and lay it on a flat surface to warm up. This will take about 30 minutes. Don’t try to warm up the medication any other way because you might damage the medication.
- You can store Kevzara outside the refrigerator at up to 77°F for a maximum of 14 days in the original outer carton.
- Always check the medication solution to make sure it’s clear or a pale yellow to pale brown before using it. Contact your provider or pharmacist about giving you a replacement if it’s cloudy or a different color.
- Kevzara is available as pre-filled syringes and pens for one-time use only. Do not reuse any leftover medication in syringes or pens.
- It is important to take the doses at the same time of the day and the same day of the week as your previous dose. For example, if you took your first dose on Friday morning, you should take your next dose after 2 weeks on Friday morning.
- Place the used syringe in an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container immediately after use. Avoid reusing them or throwing them in a regular trash can.
How Long Does It Take for Kevzara To Work?
The response of Kevzara may vary from patient to patient, but it commonly starts to work within 2 weeks of taking the medication. But, for some people, it can take up to 3 months, depending on various physiological factors.
Does Kevzara Cause Weight Gain?
Weight gain is not a side effect of Kevzara, and it has not been reported in patients on Kevzara drug therapy. However, some other medications that are given to treat RA, such as prednisone, have a higher chance of causing weight gain as a side effect in some patients. But the side effects can vary from patient to patient.
The common side effects of Kevzara include:
- A stuffy or runny nose
- Sore throat
- Urinary tract infections
- Minor pain, swelling, or skin redness at the injection site
The common side effects of Kevzara go away on their own as your body gets used to the drug, but if they become severe, persistent, or intolerable, consult your provider or pharmacist.
Severe side effects of Kevzara include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight loss
- Severe abdominal pain
- Unusual tiredness
- Pain while urinating
- Lumps or swelling in the armpits or neck
- Allergic reactions
- Severe infections
Kevzara overdose can lead to serious side effects as it is an injectable drug. It is crucial to take only one dose of up to 200 mg every 2 weeks or as prescribed by your provider. In case of overdose or toxicity symptoms, consult your provider or any nearby poison control center immediately.
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Kevzara can interact with various other medications. Hence, it is important to inform your provider about all the medications you take before starting Kevzara. Also, do not start any new medications while receiving Kevzara without asking your provider or pharmacist first to make sure the combination is safe.
Some medications that interact with Kevzara include:
- Some statin medications (cholesterol medications)
- Oral contraceptives (birth control)
The overall cost of Kevzara treatment depends on various factors, such as:
- The pharmacy where the patient purchases the drug.
- The number of doses prescribed to the patient.
- Whether or not the patient’s insurance plan covers the cost of Kevzara drug treatment.
The average cost of Kevzara is about $4,324 for a supply of 2.28 ml for a strength of 150 mg/1.14 ml.
This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your medical condition prior to starting any new treatment. AmeriPharma Specialty Care assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.
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Dr. Robert Chad Hakim, PharmD, was born and raised in Northridge, CA. He received his pharmacy degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy. The most rewarding part of his job is taking initiative to advance clinical programs that maximize impact on patient care. He has a board certification in critical care (BCCCP), and his areas of expertise are critical care, drug information, general medicine, and cardiology. In his free time, he enjoys traveling.