Humira

Written by Dr. Brian Bressler on October 26, 2019

What is Humira?

Humira (adalimumab) reduces inflammation in the body by blocking the activity of a substance called TNF-alpha.

Humira is used to treat Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and plaque psoriasis.

Humira is often used when other drugs have not worked for you, or have caused bad side effects.

Humira is part of a class of biologic drugs called “anti-TNFs” or “TNF-inhibitors”. Other anti-TNF drugs are: Remicade (infliximab), Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), Simponi (golimumab), Renflexis (infliximab-abda) and Inflectra (infliximab-dyyb).

How should I use Humira?

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.

Humira side effects

Common side effects of Humira (adalimumab):

  • Abdominal pain
  • Body aches
  • Cough
  • Ear congestion
  • Flatulence
  • Hoarseness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of voice
  • Lower back or side pain
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion
  • Pain around the eyes
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Shivering
  • Stomach fullness or pain
  • Sunken eyes
  • Thirst
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Warmth on the skin
  • Wrinkled skin

Some side effects of Humira can happen almost immediately in direct response to the injection. Others side effects may not appear until several days, or even months, after the injection. It can take up to 6 months for Humira to be eliminated from the body.

Some side effects are mild and go away on their own. Side effects that are more serious may require treatment.

Additional details about the side effects of Humira are:

  • 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.
  • Dermatological concerns: This medication has been associated with skin rashes such as psoriasis.
  • 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.
  • Neuropathy, Multiple Sclerosis (MS)-Type Symptoms: Signs and symptoms include numbness, weakness, tingling, or changes in your vision.
  • Increased risk of infection: Because Humira works by suppressing the activity of the immune system, this may increase the risk of infections from bacteria, viruses, and certain kinds of fungi. Humira can reactivate Tuberculosis (TB) if you’ve been previously exposed and it is dormant in the body. A TB skin test is required before starting on Humira.
  • Lymphoma: This medication has been associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, a blood type cancer. Humira when used in combination with Imuran or 6MP may further increase this risk. This combination has a few reported cases of a hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma, which has an aggressive disease course and is usually fatal. This risk is considered extremely rare with a limited number of cases worldwide.

Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits before you start on Humira. Let your doctor or nurse know about any new symptoms you develop while on Humira.

Important information

You may need to reschedule delay your injection if you are ill and/or running a fever.

Do not receive a live vaccine while using Humira. Live vaccines include polio, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, and yellow fever. It is recommended that your immunizations are up to date prior to starting therapy.

For women, it is important to receive annual pap tests, even if previous exams have been negative.

Please speak to your doctor if you have a history of cancer or heart disease as this medication may be contraindicated.

When will I start to feel better?

Humira works relatively quickly. Although some people may begin to see benefits in as little as 7 days, the full effects can take several months.

How long do I have to take this medication?

Humira is used to induce remission and is also an effective maintenance therapy to keep symptoms and inflammation under control. This medication cannot be used as needed and must be continued once started. If you were to stop taking Humira, your body can develop antibodies to it, thereby causing an allergic reaction and making the drug ineffective.

Can I drink alcohol while on this medication?

Yes, alcohol can be consumed in moderation.

What happens when I want to get pregnant?

This medication is relatively safe during pregnancy. However, family planning should be discussed with the doctor for more information.

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