After the Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) drug Actemra (tocilizumab) has been linked to thousands of death cases, many victims decided to file a lawsuit.

According to a study recently published by STAT, this innovative medication’s side effects include serious risks such as heart failure, lung disease, chronic pancreatitis and even strokes. The manufacturer, Genentech, originally advertised it as a newer and safer alternative to similar drugs such as Humira, Enbrel and Remicade. The pharmaceutical company never mentioned any of the above stated adverse reactions in the warning label. Instead, they insisted on claiming that Actemra was a breakthrough discovery since it showed none of the risks usually associated with this type of treatment.

All drugs used in the therapy of RA are, in fact, linked to a certain risk of fatal accidents. However, patients have always been warned about these dangers in the respective medications’ labels. The investigation found that Actemra was involved in a total of 1,128 death cases who have been brought to the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After examining over 500,000 adverse reaction reports, the researchers found that tocilizumab was consistently more dangerous than the competing medications currently available on the market.

According to the lawyers who brought the Actemra litigation in court on behalf of the many victims, Genentech lied to doctors and patients on purpose to mislead them into believing their drug was safe. Those who suffered a grievous injury or lost a beloved one after treatment with tocilizumab claim they would have chosen a different medication if they knew about the risks. Attorney claims include failure to warn, negligence in releasing a defective product to the market and conspiracy. Victims and their families are seeking financial compensation in court on account of the fraudulent marketing tactics allegedly employed by the Roche’s subsidiary company.

Back in 2009, a study found that Actemra was responsible for the death of 15 Japanese patients. More than 200 other subjects, however, reported severe side effects that could endanger their very lives. Chugai Pharmaceutical, the company that co-marketed the drug together with Roche in the Japanese market, shrugged off the news and kept selling the drug despite its risks.

Article by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.