Kevzara (sarilumab) is a brand-name prescription medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in certain situations.
Kevzara is used long term to treat moderate to severe RA in adults. The drug may be prescribed if you have tried one or more disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that have not eased your symptoms enough. Kevzara may also be prescribed if you have had a reaction to a DMARD.
Here are some fast facts about Kevzara:
- Active ingredient: sarilumab, which is a
- Drug class: interleukin-6 receptor antagonist
- Drug form: liquid solution in a prefilled pen or prefilled syringe, given as a subcutaneous injection
- FDA approval year: 2017
Like other drugs, Kevzara can cause side effects. Read on to learn about potential common, mild, and serious side effects. For a general overview of Kevzara, including details about its uses, see this article.
Kevzara can cause certain side effects, some of which are more common than others. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. But if they last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
These are just a few of the more common side effects reported by people who took Kevzara in clinical trials:
- neutropenia (low level of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell)
- infections,* such as urinary tract infections and upper respiratory infections (including colds)
- short-term changes in the results of liver function tests,† which could be a sign of liver damage
- injection site reaction‡
* Kevzara has a
† To learn more, see “FAQs about the side effects of Kevzara“ below.
‡ For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect specifics“ below.
Mild side effects can occur with Kevzara. This list doesn’t include all the possible mild side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Kevzara’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects that have been reported with Kevzara include:
- mild infections, such as urinary tract infections and upper respiratory infections (including colds)
- injection site reaction†
- increased levels of fats in the blood†
- short-term changes in the results of liver function tests,* which could be a sign of liver damage
These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. But if they last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks side effects of the medication. If you develop a side effect while using Kevzara and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.
* To learn more, see “FAQs about the side effects of Kevzara“ below.
† For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect specifics“ below.
Kevzara may cause serious side effects in some people. The list below may not include all the possible serious side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Kevzara’s prescribing information.
If you develop serious side effects while using Kevzara, call your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Kevzara that have been reported and their symptoms include:
- Neutropenia (low level of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell). This condition may increase your risk of infection.*
- Thrombocytopenia (low level of platelets). Symptoms can include:
- bruising or bleeding easily
- blood in your vomit or stool
- Increased risk of cancer, such as lymphoma or skin cancer. Symptoms can include:
- unusual lumps or skin changes
- unexpected change in body weight
- Risk of serious infections.*†
- Tear in the stomach or intestines.†
- Allergic reaction.†
* Kevzara has a
† For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect specifics“ below.
Learn more about some of the side effects that Kevzara may cause. To find out how often side effects occurred in clinical trials, see the prescribing information for Kevzara.
Injection site reaction
Injection site reactions can occur during Kevzara treatment. This was a common side effect in the drug’s clinical trials.
Kevzara is given as a subcutaneous injection. Sometimes you may have a reaction near the site where you injected the drug. This is known as an injection site reaction.
Common symptoms of injection site reactions can include pain, reddening or deepening of skin color, itching, and irritation. These symptoms are mild and temporary in most people. In rare cases, injection site reactions can be severe.
What you can do
Injection site reactions from Kevzara should go away within a few days.
There are ways to help minimize discomfort from Kevzara injections. It’s important to allow the drug to come to room temperature before you inject it.* If you inject Kevzara when it’s still cold, it can be painful. (The medication is stored in a refrigerator.)
You should also rotate the injection site for each dose, which means choosing a different spot for each injection. Repeated use of the same exact spot may increase the risk of injection site reactions. Also, be sure to avoid injecting into skin that’s scarred, bruised, tender, or damaged.
If you have severe injection site reactions, talk with your doctor. They may recommend ways to relieve your symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may suggest changes in your treatment plan. This could include changing your dosage or switching to a different medication.
* The Kevzara prefilled pen should be removed from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before use. The Kevzara prefilled syringe should be removed from the refrigerator at least 60 minutes before use. For more information about how to use Kevzara, see this article. Your doctor and pharmacist can also help.
Risk of serious infections
Kevzara comes with a
Using Kevzara may decrease your immune system’s ability to fight germs that can cause infections. Also, taking certain other drugs with Kevzara to treat rheumatoid arthritis can further weaken your immune system. Examples of these drugs include methotrexate (Trexall) and corticosteroids such as prednisone (Rayos).
Symptoms of serious infections vary, but they generally include:
- sore throat
- body aches
- skin rash or areas that are swollen, discolored, oozing, or painful
What you can do
Before you start Kevzara treatment, your doctor may test you for TB. If you test positive, they’ll likely treat the TB before prescribing Kevzara.
If you think you have any type of infection before you use Kevzara, be sure to tell your doctor.
If you think you have an infection while you’re using Kevzara, immediately talk with your doctor or seek medical attention. You’ll likely be prescribed treatment for it. Your doctor may have you stop using Kevzara until your infection clears up.
Increased levels of fats in the blood
Kevzara may increase the levels of lipids (fats) in your blood, including:
- low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad“ cholesterol
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as “good“ cholesterol
In clinical trials, these increases were seen within the first 4 weeks of Kevzara treatment. No additional increases were seen after that.
Having too much fat in your blood doesn’t cause any symptoms. But it can increase your risk of heart disease.
What you can do
During your treatment with Kevzara, your doctor will order blood tests called lipid panels. These tests measure the levels of fats in your blood.
If your cholesterol or triglyceride levels become too high, your doctor may prescribe a statin drug. They may also suggest exercise, diet changes, or other medications to manage the levels of fat in your blood.
Tear in the stomach or intestines
In rare cases, gastrointestinal perforations (tears in the stomach or intestines) may occur during treatment with Kevzara. Symptoms of these tears may include:
- intense pain or pressure in your abdomen
- nausea or vomiting
In a year-long clinical trial, this side effect was seen in one person who took Kevzara.
You may have an increased risk of a tear in the stomach or intestines while you use Kevzara if you have diverticulitis. (This is a condition in which you have small bulges in the lining of your large intestine.) Your risk of a tear may also increase if you take certain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids. For details, see “Precautions for Kevzara“ below.
What you can do
If you have any of the symptoms listed above while you use Kevzara, immediately talk with your doctor or seek medical attention. In severe cases, tears in the stomach or intestines require emergency surgery.
If you have questions about your risk of this potential side effect, talk with your doctor.
Like most drugs, Kevzara can cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:
- skin rash
- swelling under your skin, typically in your lips, eyelids, feet, or hands
- swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe
What you can do
For mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, call your doctor right away. They may recommend ways to ease your symptoms and determine whether you should keep using Kevzara. But if your symptoms are serious and you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.
Kevzara may cause several side effects. Here are some frequently asked questions about the drug’s side effects and their answers.
Does Kevzara cause weight gain?
Kevzara isn’t likely to cause weight gain. Weight changes weren’t seen in people who took the drug in clinical trials.
Be sure to tell your doctor about any changes in your weight while you’re using Kevzara. They can help determine whether the drug or another factor is the cause. Your doctor can also recommend ways to maintain a weight that’s healthy for you.
Can Kevzara harm your liver?
Kevzara is not recommended for people with liver problems, such as hepatitis. For details, see “Precautions for Kevzara“ below.
If you’d like to learn more about Kevzara and liver problems, talk with your doctor.
Is hair loss a side effect of Kevzara?
Hair loss should not occur as a side effect of Kevzara when the drug is used alone. Hair loss wasn’t reported in clinical trials of Kevzara.
However, hair loss can be a side effect of methotrexate. In some cases, doctors may prescribe this drug in combination with Kevzara to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methotrexate is a type of medication called an immunosuppressant. It’s used to treat various conditions, including RA.
If you have questions about hair loss and your Kevzara treatment plan, talk with your doctor.
Kevzara comes with several precautions.
Boxed warning: Risk of serious infections
Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you start using Kevzara. This drug may not be the right treatment for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. The conditions and factors to consider include:
Infections, including tuberculosis. Using Kevzara may decrease your ability to fight infections. If you’re being treated for an infection, even a minor one, or think you may have an infection, tell your doctor. They’ll likely wait to prescribe Kevzara until your infection has gone away. Also, be sure to talk with your doctor if you’ve had tuberculosis (TB) or have any infections that keep returning. They can help determine if Kevzara is right for you.
Use of corticosteroids or NSAIDs. It’s possible to develop a gastrointestinal perforation while you use Kevzara. If you already take a corticosteroid or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), you may have an increased risk of a tear. Examples of corticosteroids include prednisone (Rayos) and dexamethasone (Hemady). Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). If you take a corticosteroid or an NSAID, talk with your doctor. They can help you weigh the risks and benefits of Kevzara.
Diverticulitis. During Kevzara treatment, it’s possible to develop a gastrointestinal perforation (hole or tear in an intestine or the stomach). If you have a condition called diverticulitis, you may have an increased risk of this tear. Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of Kevzara treatment.
Liver problems. Kevzara isn’t recommended if you have a liver problem, such as hepatitis. This is because using this drug may worsen your liver problem. Before prescribing Kevzara, your doctor will likely check the health of your liver with a liver function test. If your liver isn’t functioning as well as it should, your doctor may not prescribe Kevzara. They can suggest a different treatment.
Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Kevzara or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Kevzara. Ask them what other medications may be better options for you.
Alcohol use with Kevzara
Alcohol is not known to cause any interactions with Kevzara. However, drinking too much can lead to liver problems. And it may not be safe to use Kevzara if you have a liver problem. So if you consume too much alcohol and use Kevzara, this could make your liver problem worse.
If you’d like to know how much alcohol, if any, is safe to drink while you use Kevzara, talk with your doctor.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding while using Kevzara
Here’s some information about pregnancy, breastfeeding, and Kevzara.
Pregnancy. It isn’t known for sure, but Kevzara is likely not safe during pregnancy. The drug hasn’t been studied in human pregnancies.
In animal trials, there were some concerns. The offspring of pregnant animals given Kevzara were born with low levels of a certain antibody (an immune system protein). This means that if the drug is used during pregnancy, it could potentially weaken the immune system of the infant. Also, high doses of Kevzara in the animal trials were linked to delays in labor and birth.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor before you start using Kevzara. They can advise you on your treatment options.
A pregnancy registry was set up to help doctors and people using Kevzara learn more about the effects of the drug during pregnancy. (Pregnancy registries collect data on how a medication affects pregnant people and their children.) To learn more about the registry, you can talk with your doctor. You can also visit the registry’s website or call 866-626-6847.
Breastfeeding. Kevzara is not safe to use while breastfeeding. Talk with your doctor about other treatment or feeding options during this time.
Kevzara may cause mild or serious side effects in some people. If you develop serious side effects during your treatment, talk with your doctor.
If you’d like to learn more about Kevzara, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about side effects of the drug.
Besides talking with your doctor, you can do some research on your own. These articles might help:
- More information about Kevzara. For details about other aspects of Kevzara, refer to this article.
- Drug comparison. Learn how Kevzara compares with Actemra and with Humira.
- A look at rheumatoid arthritis. For details about your condition, see our arthritis hub as well as this list of rheumatology articles.
Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.