Cimzia (Certolizumab)

Cimzia is a biologic medication that is approved to treat adults with moderately to severely active RA. The medication is an engineered version of an antibody that acts against tumor necrosis factor alpha, a normal chemical in the immune system that causes swelling, pain, and redness.1

All biologic medicines approved for use against RA improve the symptoms of arthritis, reduce joint damage, improve functional ability, and increase the quality of life patients with RA.1

Certolizumab is not available in generic forms.

What are the ingredients in Cimzia?

The active ingredient in Cimzia is certolizumab pegol.2

How does Cimzia work?

Cimzia is a medication that is engineered to block TNF-α. TNF-α is an important immune system signaling factor (called a cytokine) that plays a key role in swelling and inflammation. It is found in higher levels in the synovial fluid in the joints of patients with RA, and it is connected to inflammation as well as bone and cartilage damage. Blocking TNF-α helps tamp down the damage caused by the dysfunction of the immune system that is characteristic of RA.1

In Cimzia, the TNF blocker is joined with a polyethylene glycol (pegol) molecule that increases the length of time the medication is active in the body. It also helps the medicine penetrate inflamed tissues more effectively than normal tissues.1

What are the possible side effects of Cimzia?

Common side effects with Cimzia include:3,4

  • Headache
  • Redness, itching, pain, or swelling at the site of injection
  • Back pain
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Upper respiratory infection

In some patients, Cimzia can cause more harmful side effects. Patients who take Cimzia are at increased risk for serious infections, including tuberculosis, invasive fungal infections, viral infections, bacterial infections, and other opportunistic infections (infection caused by a microorganism that does not normally cause infection in humans, typically due to an abnormally functioning immune system).3

Children and adolescents taking Cimzia are also at slightly higher risk for lymphoma and other cancers. Other rare but serious side effects include heart failure, Hepatitis B reactivation, nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis, and certain blood disorders.4

This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Cimzia. If you notice any new or worsening side effects, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately. For more information, see the FDA black box warning for Cimzia.

Things to note about Cimzia

Before taking Cimzia, tell your doctor if you:2

  • Have a current infection or are prone to recurring infections
  • Have or have had cancer of any type
  • Have congestive heart failure
  • Have seizures, numbness or tingling, or any disease that affects your nervous system
  • Are scheduled to receive a vaccine
  • Have HIV, diabetes, or a weak immune system
  • Have tested positive for TB or have been in close contact with someone who has TB
  • Have or have had Hepatitis B
  • Live in areas of the US known for fungal infections, including the Ohio and Mississippi Valley and the southwest
  • Have a burning sensation when you urinate
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding

There is an increased risk for serious infections with Cimzia. This is because Cimzia can decrease the ability of the immune system to fight infections. Most patients who developed serious infections while taking Cimzia were also receiving immunosuppressant treatments, including methotrexate or corticosteroids.4 If you are taking Cimzia and develop any symptoms of an infection, contact your doctor immediately.

Cimzia should not be used by patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or other demyelinating disease. Patients taking this medication should not receive live vaccines. It is important for doctors to test you for TB before you take Cimzia and to monitor for heart problems, infection, and nerve damage while you are on the medication.5

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Written by: Sara Finkelstein | Last reviewed: April 2021.