When a new remedy for rheumatoid arthritis arrived, ads called it a “unique” breakthrough that would “transform expectations” for patients and doctors.
Treatments for the disabling disease afflicting about 1.5 million Americans can have terrifying side effects, so doctors and patients were excited when Actemra reached the U.S. market in 2010. Unlike competing drugs, it wasn’t associated with heart attacks, heart failure, or life-threatening lung complications.
Since then, more than 760,000 patients have used the drug. The FDA has received 1,128 reports of deaths in patients taking Actemra, yet cannot determine if the drug was the direct cause of the deaths.