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What is tocilizumab and why is it prescribed?

Tocilizumab is a biological therapy that targets a protein called IL-6.

It's prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis to reduce inflammation.

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How do I take tocilizumab and how long does it take to work?

Tocilizumab may be given through a drip once every four weeks, or as an injection under the skin once a week. You should start to notice the benefits after 2–12 weeks.

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What are the possible risks and side-effects of tocilizumab?

Side-effects of tocilizumab aren't usually serious but include a blocked or runny nose, sore throat, headache, dizziness, mouth ulcers and stomach irritation. It can also make you more likely to develop infections.

You should tell your doctor or rheumatology nurse straight away if you experience any side-effects.

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Can tocilizumab affect other medicines and treatments?

You may be prescribed tocilizumab alongside other drugs. However, some medications can interact with tocilizumab, so always check with your doctor.

If you're on tocilizumab it's generally recommended that you don't have live vaccines.

You may be advised to stop taking tocilizumab for a time if you're going to have an operation.

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Can I drink alcohol while I'm on tocilizumab?

You can drink alcohol while on tocilizumab. 

However, if you’re also taking methotrexate, you should keep within the recommended limits (14 units per week for adults).

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Does tocilizumab affect fertility, pregnancy or breastfeeding?

Current guidelines advise avoiding tocilizumab during pregnancy. However, it's unlikely to be harmful if taken in the early stages.

We don't yet know whether tocilizumab can pass into breast milk or how this might affect the baby. 

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