Pandemic surge causes major shortage of a drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis and severe Covid-19

(CNN)Renée Melendez is frustrated with the unvaccinated for more reasons than just the renewed spread of Covid-19, she said.The Virginia woman says she and her whole family got the vaccine as soon as it was available. She’s immunocompromised and susceptible to getting really sick if she caught Covid-19. She has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and it is these diseases that add an extra layer to her frustration and anger.

To keep her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms under control, to be able to function every day, once a month she gets an infusion of a biologic called Actemra, also known as tocilizumab. But now, because of the pandemic and the recent surge in cases, there is no Actemra available

Pandemic surge causes major shortage of a drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis and severe Covid-19

Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT) August 27, 2021

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(CNN)Renée Melendez is frustrated with the unvaccinated for more reasons than just the renewed spread of Covid-19, she said.The Virginia woman says she and her whole family got the vaccine as soon as it was available. She’s immunocompromised and susceptible to getting really sick if she caught Covid-19. She has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and it is these diseases that add an extra layer to her frustration and anger.

Make the unvaccinated pay out for their deadly decisions

Make the unvaccinated pay out for their deadly decisionsTo keep her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms under control, to be able to function every day, once a month she gets an infusion of a biologic called Actemra, also known as tocilizumab. But now, because of the pandemic and the recent surge in cases, there is no Actemra availablenull”We did our part to preserve ourselves, our community, in trying to help battle this by getting vaccinated,” Melendez said. “It’s just unfortunate that the ignorance and laziness, for lack of better words, of other people who avoided taking the vaccine and ended up in the hospital with Covid, now has to impact me.”

Repurposing drugs to treat Covid-19

In June, the US Food and Drug Administration gave Actemra an emergency use authorization to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients. This monoclonal antibody can reduce inflammation that can make patients sicker.The antibody treatment blocks an inflammatory protein called IL-6 that causes damage in rheumatoid arthritis. That same protein plays a role in some of the serious symptoms in people with severe Covid-19 infections.

The latest surge in cases caused a global shortage. Genentech, the company that makes Actemra, doesn’t have enough for everyone who needs it. Last week, the companysaid demand for the drug went up more than 400% beyond pre-Covid levels in just two weeks.In the United States, supplies of several dose levels of this medicine have been out of stock since last Monday.

A life saver and life changer

For patients with Covid-19, the drug can be lifesaving. For patients with rheumatoid arthritis, like Melendez, it can be life-altering.

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