By Dr. Brian Bressler and Christina Pears, RN
What is it?
Humira is a protein that partially inhibits the activity of the immune system by blocking the inflammatory molecules causing inflammation. By blocking its activity, inflammation is reduced allowing your bowel to heal.
How do I take it?
Humira is given by a subcutaneous injection. Initially, you will receive 4 injections (160mg) at the start of therapy. After two weeks, your next dose will be 2 injections (80mg). After those injections, you will need to take 1 injection (40mg) every 2 weeks. Some patients may need to take 1 injection every week.
You can self-administer your injections at home, or if needed, it can be arranged to have a nurse give you the injections at the clinic or at home.
How long do I have to take this medication?
Humira is used to induce and maintain clinical remission and is taken regularly. This medication cannot be used as needed and must be continued once started. If there are missed doses, your body can develop antibodies which can cause an allergic reaction and make the drug ineffective.
When will I start to feel better?
Humira works relatively quickly. Some people can begin to see benefits in as little as 7 days and some will see results after a few months.
What happens when I want to get pregnant?
This medication is relatively safe during pregnancy but family planning should be discussed with the doctor for more information.
Can I drink alcohol while on this medication?
What are the side effects/risks?
- Increased risk of infection
- Humira works by suppressing the activity of the immune system thereby increasing the risk of developing infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. For example, this medication can reactivate tuberculosis (TB) if you’ve been exposed to it and it is dormant in the body. Therefore, it is necessary to undergo a TB skin test before starting therapy. Let your doctor know if you’ve been exposed to TB in the past.
- Allergic/Hypersensitivity Reactions
- This reaction may occur at various times during treatment and can be mild or severe, such as anaphylaxis. Injection site reactions may include hives, redness, and swelling.
- Lupus-Like Syndrome
- This may include symptoms such as chest discomfort/pain that does not go away, shortness of breath, joint pain, or a sun- sensitive rash on the cheeks or arms.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)-Type Symptoms
- Signs and symptoms include numbness, weakness, tingling, or changes in vision.
- Humira may be associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, which Is a cancer of the lymph nodes, but this risk is very low. For example, the risk of developing lymphoma in the general population on no medications is approximately 1 in 10000. This medication may increase that risk to about 4-6 in 10000.
- Because Humira affects your immune system, you may need to delay your injections if you are ill and/or running a fever.
- It is recommended that your immunizations are up to date prior to starting therapy. While on Humira, all live vaccines must be avoided.
- For women, it is important to receive annual pap tests, even if previous exams have been negative.
- Speak to your doctor if you have a history of cancer or heart disease as this medication may be contraindicated
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