Humira (Adalimumab)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2022 | Last updated: April 2022

Humira is an engineered biologic medication that is approved for use against rheumatoid arthritis.

In clinical studies, Humira helped reduce the signs and symptoms of RA for adults with moderate to severely active disease, including by slowing joint damage, improving physical functioning, increasing the quality of life in patients with RA.1,2

This medication can be used alone or in combination with methotrexate or other disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), glucocorticoids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and/or analgesics.1,2

Humira is also approved for use in other autoimmune diseases, including juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and plaque psoriasis.1

Humira is not available in generic forms.

What are the ingredients in Humira?

The active ingredient in Humira is adalimumab.

How does Humira work?

Humira is one of several monoclonal antibodies used to treat RA. Our bodies naturally produce antibodies, which are immune factors that act against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign organisms that invade and pose a threat to our health. Drugmakers have engineered a variety of antibodies to target the mechanisms that cause certain diseases, including RA.

Humira blocks the action of tumor necrosis factor- α (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.2 It also causes cells that express TNF-α on their surface to rupture and die.1

Side effects of Humira

Common side effects with Humira include :

  • Redness, itching, pain, or swelling at the site of injection
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • back pain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Sinusitis

In some patients, Humira can cause more harmful side effects. Patients who take Humira 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, as well as adults taking Humira, are also at slightly higher risk for lymphoma and other cancers.3 Other rare but serious side effects include Hepatitis B reactivation, nerve diseases like multiple sclerosis, certain blood disorders, heart disease, and lupus-type symptoms.1

These are not all the possible side effects of Humira. Patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect with treatment with Humira. For more information, see the FDA black box warning for Humira.

Things to note about Humira

Before taking Humira, tell your doctor if you:1

  • Have a current infection or are prone to recurring infections, including open cuts
  • Have HIV, diabetes, or a weakened immune system
  • Have tested positive for TB or have been in close contact with someone who has TB
  • Live in areas of the US where known for fungal infections, including the Ohio and Mississippi Valley and the southwest
  • Have or have had Hepatitis B
  • Have any nervous system problems like multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Have or have had congestive heart failure
  • Are scheduled to have surgery
  • Are scheduled to receive a vaccine
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding

With Humira, there is an increased risk for serious infection. This is because Humira can decrease the ability of the immune system to fight infections. If an infection develops while you are taking this medication, or if you have a severe allergic reaction, contact your doctor immediately.3

Patients taking this medication should not receive live vaccines. Tell your doctor about any medications or supplements you are taking while on Humira, because it doesn’t mix well with certain medicines. It is important for doctors to test you for TB before you take Humira and to monitor for heart problems, infection, and nerve damage while you are on the medication.1

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