Ask the Rheumatologist: Latest Answer
Stella from Medicine Hat asks: Can you use Tocilizumab (Actemra) for Giant Cell Arteritis?
Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) is a form of autoimmune vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) that affects large blood vessels in the body, but most commonly arteries in the head area, particularly around the temples. Among other symptoms, it can cause headaches, scalp tenderness, and difficulty chewing your food. Some individuals may also have pain around their shoulders or hips. If not treated, GCA can cause sudden vision problems which in some cases, can be irreversible. This makes quick recognition and treatment of GCA important. GCA is most often first treated with prednisone. For some patients, if they are having difficulty getting off Prednisone, other disease modifying agents may be used. One of the newest treatment options for GCA is tocilizumab (Actemra). While some rheumatologists will use it at the start of treatment with Prednisone, others may wait to see if it is needed depending on how beneficial the Prednisone was. In individual cases, there may be reasons to use it earlier or later.