Humira (Adalimumab)

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. Drug makers 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

What are the possible 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.iii 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

This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Humira. For more information, consult your doctor or healthcare provider. If you notice any new or worsening side effects, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

Things to note about Humira

Before taking Humira, tell your doctor if you1:

  • 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

Dosing information

Humira comes in prefilled syringes and dosing pens and is usually administered by injection under the skin every other week. The recommended dose of Humira is 40 mg. In patients who are not taking methotrexate at the same time, there may be some benefit to increasing the frequency of Humira dosing to once every week. Your doctor will decide how often you should take this medicine.1

You will be given your first dose of Humira in a medical office, and after that, you may be able to administer it at home. Before injecting Humira, remove the syringe or pen from the refrigerator and place it on a flat surface without removing the cap. Allow it to come to room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before you inject it. You can inject Humira anywhere on the front of your thighs or stomach except within 2 inches of your navel. Use a different site for each injection, to reduce soreness at the injection site.4

Make sure you have been instructed about how to give an injection of Humira before you do it yourself. If you have any questions about how to prepare and administer Humira, call your doctor.4

Written by: Sara Finkelstein | Last reviewed: June 2018.
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