Drug Name

Brand Name(s)

Drug Class

Sarilumab is used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

  • What type of arthritis sarilumab used for?

    Sarilumab is used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

    Sarilumab is used when there has been an inadequate response to DMARD therapy. Sarilumab is recommended to be used in combination with methotrexate (MTX) or other traditional DMARDs. For patients who cannot tolerate MTX, sarilumab may be given as monotherapy.

    Sarilumab is never used in combination with other biologic medications. Combining sarilumab with another biologic therapy is not recommended because of the increased risk of infection.

  • How is sarilumab administered?

    Sarilumab is given by subcutaneous (s.c.) injection (meaning in the fatty layer of tissue just under the skin). You, a family member or a friend can be taught how to give the injection.

  • What is the typical dose and when do I take it?

    The usual dose of sarilumab is 200 mg once every 2 weeks.

    The medication comes in single use pre-filled syringes or pre-filled pens for administration.

  • How long will it take to work?
    As with all of the biologics, you may not feel the effects of the sarilumab right away. Some people begin to feel the effects of the medication fairly quickly; however, it may take three to six months to feel its full effect. It is important to be patient and keep taking your medication.

    To provide symptom relief while you are waiting for sarilumab to take effect, your health-care provider may recommend taking a steroid, such as prednisone, or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
  • When should I not take sarilumab and call my doctor?

    Sarilumab can make it more difficult for your body to fight infections. People with active infections should not take sarilumab. If you have a fever, think you have an infection or have been prescribed an antibiotic, contact your health-care provider. People who have had frequent infections in the past or a history of tuberculosis should discuss the use of sarilumab with their prescriber.

    Also contact your health-care provider if you are having surgery as you may need to stop sarilumab until you are healed and there is no sign of infection.

    Sarilumab has not been studied in pregnant women or nursing mothers so its effect(s) on pregnant women or nursing babies are unknown. You should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. Because of the potential for adverse reactions in nursing infants, a decision should be made on whether or not to discontinue nursing or the medication, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.

    Anyone who has had a previous allergic reaction to sarilumab should avoid the medication.

    Anyone with a history of cancer should discuss the use of sarilumab with their health-care provider.

    Ideally, your vaccinations should be up to date prior to starting sarilumab. If you have already started therapy with sarilumab, your health-care provider will likely recommend most inactive vaccines (e.g., influenza, pneumococcal). Live vaccines are not recommended due to risk of causing infection. Before receiving any vaccinations while taking sarilumab, you should speak with your health-care provider.

  • What are the side effects of sarilumab?

    Like all medications, taking sarilumab carries some risk of side effects, which must be balanced with the potential benefits. In general, the risk of joint damage and permanent disability (resulting from arthritis) is much greater than the risks of side effects from sarilumab. When monitored properly the vast majority of side effects are rare, most improve over time and are reversible.

    Firstly, as with all DMARD and biologic medications, sarilumab can lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections and increase your risk of infections.

    The most common side effects of sarilumab are cold sores and upper respiratory tract infections/symptoms (coughs and cold, sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and coughing). Some people also experience urinary tract infections.  Sarilumab can rarely cause a reaction (redness, pain, and itching) at the injection site. Talk to your health-care provider if these symptoms become severe.

    Sarilumab may affect your blood counts, liver or kidney function and cholesterol levels. Your health-care provider will use blood tests to monitor for these changes.

    Very rarely sarilumab has been associated with stomach perforations (holes in the lining of the stomach), usually as a complication of diverticulitis (infection of the large intestine). Sarilumab should be used with caution in patients who may be at increased risk for stomach perforation (e.g., using NSAIDs and/or corticosteroids, people with a history of diverticulitis). Stomach perforations require immediate medical attention. If you develop fever and severe stomach pain that does not go away, seek medical attention.

  • What helps to reduce side effects?

    Take sarilumab as prescribed and contact your health-care provider if you have any concerns while taking the medication.

    To avoid injection reactions, injection sites should be rotated and avoid areas where the skin is tender, bruised, red and/or hard.

  • Do I need any monitoring while taking sarilumab?

    You will need blood tests 4 to 8 weeks after starting sarilumab, and then approximately every 3 months during treatment.  This is important to ensure sarilumab is having no harmful effects on your blood counts, liver, kidneys or cholesterol levels.

This information was last updated May 2018, with expert advice from:

Jason Kielly, B.Sc. (pharm.), Pharm.D.
Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Clinical Pharmacist, Rheumatic Health Program, Eastern Health

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