Tocilizumab is a monoclonal antibody to the interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor. IL-6 is produced by the immune system at the site of inflammation, and by blocking it from binding to its receptor, inflammation is prevented. Tocilizumab is a very useful medication for the treatment of a number of rheumatic conditions.
Seriously and critically unwell patients with COVID-19, however, also have an overstimulated immune system that can damage their organs, and may lead to death. Tocilizumab has been shown to reduce the risk of death in these patients.
The pandemic has increased the global demand for tocilizumab significantly, with the situation in NSW also contributing to the critical stock shortage in Australia.
As a result, from this week, there is no stock of tocilizumab available for patients with rheumatic conditions. All patients on tocilizumab are strongly encouraged to speak with their rheumatologist to discuss alternative treatment options, as soon as possible.
For patients of View Health – chemo@home you will have received a text message outlining the above. All our specialists have been sent emails advising them how we can help assist in switching patients from tocilizumab to other medications. Please know we will do everything we can to try and make this situation less crap than it is.
All our team are distressed by the current COVID-19 situation in NSW and the large number of people in ICU and on ventilation. We also feel distressed for all the patients with rheumatic conditions who are being adversely affected by the knock effect of COVID-19.
Read more about the shortage at the TGA website here: