Orencia, also known by its drug name, Abatacept, is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005. Orencia is approved as second-line treatment in cases of moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis that has not responded adequately to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as Methotrexate or anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) drugs such as Humira. Orencia can decrease joint pain, swelling and stiffness, improve function, and help prevent progressive damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Orencia may not be appropriate for people with blood poisoning (sepsis). People with active infections of any sort should not begin taking Orencia. Orencia may not be appropriate for people who have been exposed to tuberculosis. Orencia should be used with caution by people with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or hepatitis.
Orencia is an immunomodulator, or in other words, a drug that modulates the immune system. It is also a biologic. It is a fusion protein created by genetic engineering. Orencia is believed to work by inhibiting the activation of T-lymphocyte cells, preventing them from attacking the connective tissues.
How do I take it?
Orencia is administered as a subcutaneous injection or an intravenous infusion. As an injection, Orencia is administered once a week. As an intravenous infusion, Orencia is administered during the first, second and fourth weeks, then every four weeks going forward. Infusion takes about 30 minutes.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking Orencia.
A 2006 article reviewed the results of existing clinical trials of Abatacept (Orencia) for rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers concluded that Abatacept is a safe and effective treatment for treating established rheumatoid arthritis.
Common side effects of Orencia include headache, sinus congestion, coughing, flushed skin, nausea, and dizziness.
People with COPD have increased an risk of developing respiratory side effects while taking Orencia.
You may be more likely to contract infections, including serious infections, due to decreased immune system function while taking Orencia. Contact your doctor if you develop signs of infection such as fever, cough, trouble breathing, white patches in the mouth, pain or burning during urination, or unusual vaginal discharge.
Orencia may slightly increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Seek medical help immediately if you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction such as trouble breathing, severe dizziness, a rash, or itching or swelling of the face, tongue, and throat.
For answers to frequently asked questions about exposure to Orencia during pregnancy and breastfeeding, visit the experts at MothertoBaby.org.