Starting a new treatment like Kevzara often comes with many questions and a bit of uncertainty. How does it work? How is it administered? How to store it correctly? What about traveling with your injections?
So, let's take a thorough look at Kevzara (sarilumab), a powerful biologic injectable drug used for rheumatoid arthritis.
What is Kevzara?
Kevzara is the brand name for the drug sarilumab. It is used to treat moderate and severe rheumatoid arthritis in adult patients who don't respond well to other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), like methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, and others.
Related article: 8 Great Tips for Traveling with Arthritis!
How does Kevzara work?
Sarilumab, the active ingredient in Kevzara, is a human monoclonal antibody. It inhibits the interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R), a protein involved in the body's inflammatory response that causes rheumatoid arthritis. By blocking IL-6R, Kevzara injections help reduce inflammation and joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Simply put, think of rheumatoid arthritis as a case of mistaken identity. It’s a chronic, auto-immune disease where the immune system, normally fighting germs and unhealthy cells, gets confused and starts attacking the body's healthy joints. This causes swelling, pain, and damage to the joints.
The body uses various chemical messengers to control the immune system. One of these messengers is called interleukin-6 (IL-6). In people with rheumatoid arthritis, there's often too much IL-6. This excess of IL-6 over-stimulates the immune system, ultimately causing it to attack the joints mistakenly.
Kevzara (sarilumab) helps block the action of interleukin-6, which calms down the immune system, reducing joint damage, pain, and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms over time.
Like any medication, Kevzara may cause side effects, including injection site infections, changes in blood cell counts, increased cholesterol levels, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, or liver problems.
Kevzara vs. Humira, Enbrel, and other RA injections
Kevzara is only one of the many injections available to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s a summary of how it compares with other common ones:
- Kevzara (sarilumab) and Actemra (tocilizumab) both target interleukin-6 receptors (IL-6R).
- Humira (adalimumab), Enbrel (etanercept), Cimzia (certolizumab), and Simponi (golimumab) are tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. These drugs work by blocking the action of TNF, a protein responsible for joint inflammation.
- Orencia (abatacept) targets the T-cells and helps downregulate the immune response, reducing inflammation.
- Cosentyx (secukinumab), Taltz (ixekizumab), and Skyrizi (risankizumab) are IL-17 inhibitors and can be used in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.
- Stelara (ustekinumab) works by blocking interleukin 12 and 23, and it's used in psoriatic arthritis too.
This is not an exhaustive list, and the choice of rheumatoid arthritis medication depends on numerous factors, including the type and severity of arthritis, medical records, personal response to different drugs, and individual needs. As always, ask for your doctor’s advice.
Related article: 10 Great Anti-Inflammatory Snacks for Rheumatoid Arthritis!
Kevzara Injection Instructions
Kevzara is a prescription medication. It should never be used without a doctor's supervision.
How is Kevzara administered?
Kevzara (sarilumab) is administered via subcutaneous injection (under the skin, usually in the thigh or abdomen).
Patients receive the first injection and training under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Afterward, Kevzara can be self-administered at home.
The injections are usually given once every two weeks, but the dosing schedule and strength can vary depending on individual needs and doctor’s recommendations.
Kevzara is available in prefilled syringes and prefilled pens (autoinjectors). Both are single-use and disposable devices containing one dose of Kevzara (150 mg or 200 mg).
The prefilled syringes require manual control during the injection, and you have to press the plunger yourself to inject the medicine. However, the autoinjectors automatically inject your dose of Kevzara once activated. Therefore, it can be a better option for people with manual dexterity problems or fear of injections.
The syringes and autoinjectors work differently. Always follow the instructions provided with your Kevzara injection device. Remember to dispose of your syringes or pens properly after use: they are considered sharp objects and shouldn't be thrown in the household trash.
How to Store Kevzara?
As part of your injection training, your healthcare provider must have warned you about Kevzara’s specific storage instructions.
Like most injections for rheumatoid arthritis, sarilumab, the active ingredient in Kevzara, is a biological drug derived from living organisms. And like any biologic, Kevzara must be refrigerated to maintain its effectiveness.
Indeed, biologics like Kevzara are sensitive to changes in temperature. When exposed to high temperatures, they quickly degrade and lose potency.
Therefore, and according to Regeneron and Sanofi, Kevzara’s manufacturers, Kevzara must be stored in the refrigerator between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C). In addition, it must be kept in its original carton box so it’s protected from light.
However, it shouldn't be stored too cold, as freezing temperatures can also destroy the medicine inside. If your Kevzara syringes or pens accidentally freeze, do not use them, even if thawed afterward.
How long can Kevzara stay out of the refrigerator?
When refrigeration is impossible, like when on the go or traveling, Kevzara can be kept at room temperature (max 77°F / 25°C for up to 14 days.
After it has been removed from the refrigerator and has reached room temperature, Kevzara should not be returned to the fridge. If a syringe or a pen of Kevzara has been out of the refrigerator for more than 14 days, do not use it.
When traveling with Kevzara:
- Use a medical-grade travel cooler like the ones from 4AllFamily.
- Always keep your injections in the shade, away from direct sunlight.
- Pack your rheumatoid arthritis injections in your carry-on. Hazardous temperature and atmospheric conditions in the hold can damage the drug inside.
- Make sure to bring the necessary documentation, like a doctor's letter, a copy of your prescription, or more depending on your destination.
Related article: Flying with Arthritis, How to Prepare for Long-Haul Flights!
Can you inject Kevzara cold?
Injecting cold drugs straight from the fridge may cause more pain during the injection. Therefore, you can remove your syringes or autoinjectors from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before injecting.
Related article: 10 Great Anti-inflammatory Snack Ideas For Rheumatoid Arthritis!