Tocilizumab for COVID-19

Sounds like ‘TOE-si-LIZ-oo-mab’

Key points about tocilizumab for COVID-19

  • Tocilizumab is used to treat people who are in hospital with COVID-19.
  • Tocilizumab is also called Actemra.
  • Find out how it is given and possible side effects.
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Tocilizumab is used to treat people who are in hospital with severe COVID-19 infection and who meet certain criteria for its use. Tocilizumab is used to reduce inflammation in your lungs. It can also reduce the effects of an over-activated immune system that can occur in some people. It may help you get better sooner and reduce your risk of dying. 

Tocilizumab is given in hospital by a slow injection into your vein (called intravenous infusion), as a single dose over 1 hour. Your doctor will decide what dose is right for you, based on your body weight.

Before you are given tocilizumab, tell your doctor:

  • if you have hepatitis B
  • if you have any other conditions including tuberculosis, diverticulitis, stomach ulcers, diabetes, cancer, or raised blood pressure
  • if you have had previous allergic reactions to any medicine including over-the-counter and complementary medicines, eg, vitamins, minerals, herbal or naturopathic medicines that you are taking or have recently taken
  • if you think you are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy.

Tocilizumab can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.

Common side effects

These are usually mild and go away with time. Tell your doctor if these side effects cause you problems or don’t go away:

  • Feeling sick (nausea).
  • Indigestion.
  • Runny poo (diarrhoea).
  • Cough.
  • Blocked or runny nose.
  • Headache.

Rare, serious side effects

Your doctor will watch for these side effects by doing blood tests and monitoring:

  • infections, eg, in your sinuses or throat
  • problems with your liver
  • raised blood pressure
  • signs of an allergic reaction.

Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product(external link)

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Maya Patel, Pharmacist

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