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What Is Canakinumab?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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Canakinumab is an injectable antibody that blocks the buildup of an immune system protein known as interleukin-1 beta (1L-1Β). It is administered every eight weeks to people suffering from specific cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome diseases, particularly Muckle-Wells syndrome (MWS) and familial cold auto-inflammatory syndrome (FCAS). Although it may be beneficial for people experiencing acute gout and type 1 diabetes, research as of 2011 is unclear as to whether the risks of its use outweigh the benefits. As with many drugs, there are some side effects to using canakinumab, such as a weak immune system and, possibly, cardiovascular issues and renal problems.

The primary use of canakinumab is for treatment of the symptoms of cryopyrin-associated periodic syndrome diseases. People who suffer from these diseases have a buildup of an immune system protein called interleukin-1 beta. This buildup causes frequent fevers, rashes, chills, headaches, joint pain, muscle aches and extreme tiredness. Injecting canakinumab into the patient may allow the person’s body to block the protein, lower the amount of buildup and reduce inflammation. Injecting the drug into the body also will help lessen that person's symptoms of the disease.

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Research has indicated that canakinumab also may help people who suffer from acute gout. In initial studies, patients who were administered this drug experienced less pain as compared to traditional gout treatments. Soon after, these studies were called to the public's attention by concerned watch groups whose members said that, while the drug is effective in lessening the pain associated with gout, the data available regarding the safety of the drug was not sufficient.

Likewise, canakinumab has shown that it may be helpful for people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Specifically, early research — including a study open to children as young as 6 years old — has indicated that injections of the drug may help affected patients make insulin. Some watch groups, however, believe the risks of using the drug are greater than the benefit.

Canakinumab will weaken the immune system and should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional. This weakening may lead to illnesses of the respiratory system and should be avoided by people with an already weak immune system and by people taking other drugs that will weaken the immune system. In addition, the drug may cause dizziness and upset stomach. Some researchers believe it may cause cardiovascular problems and renal ailments, as well. The drug was developed in 2009 and, as of 2011, the cancer risks remain unknown.

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