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What Is Icatibant?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 17, 2024
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Icatibant is a type of medication used to treat hereditary angioedema (HAE), a medical condition that causes the layers of the skin to become swollen and reddish in appearance, usually located around the mouth and the eyes. In a nutshell, the drug prevents the blood vessels from dilating and carrying more blood and other fluids, which causes the swelling in a particular area. As of July 2008, icatibant has been approved as the treatment for HAE by the European Commission and has been classified as an “orphan drug,” which means that the drug was created as a treatment for a specific medical condition. In August 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also gave its approval for the drug, but prohibited the use of the drug on patients younger than 18 years.

Various research has shown that the interaction between the peptide “bradykinin” and the B2 receptor as the primary cause for HAE. These two molecules act like a lock and key; when the bradykinin is “slot in” the b2 receptor, this triggers the dilation of blood vessels. In the case of HAE, there is an excessive amount of bradykinin, causing blood vessels to expand and the blood, along with other bodily fluids, to rush to an area and make it swollen and usually painful. What icatibant does is it inhibits the action of the bradykinins and prevents them from binding to the receptors, greatly reducing the symptoms of HAE.

As a drug, icatibant is said to be “peptidomimetic,” a drug that mimics the function of certain peptides. The drug contains ten amino acids that act as antagonists for the b2 receptors. It is usually introduced to the patient via injection in the stomach area. A single-use syringe is usually filled with a 3mL solution, containing 30mg of icatibant. If HAE symptoms persist or are not reduced, another injection can be administered after at least six hours.

Some side effects of icatibant include nausea, drowsiness, and fatigue, which is why patients under treatment are advised not to drive, handle heavy machines, or undergo any activity that requires alertness. Patients who have sensitive skin may also experience some rashes, itchiness, or numbness in the area where the icatibant solution is injected. Patients can only have a maximum of three doses in a day, since overdosing can cause a patient to experience extremely low blood pressure, itching, and severe redness of skin. Before taking the treatment, female patients should also inform their physicians if they are breastfeeding, pregnant, or have other health conditions.

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