What is Adalimumab?

Lindsay Zortman

Adalimumab is a medicine that works as an inhibitor of the body's tumor necrosis factor (TNF), which is responsible for inflammation in the body. Adalimumab helps reduce inflammation resulting from autoimmune disorders and, as such, is used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease. Commonly known as Humira®, this medication is injected under the skin and requires some training in its administration. Other uses for adalimumab include the treatment of plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. By inhibiting the TNF receptor, this medication reduces the body's inflammation reaction.

Adalimumab may used in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.
Adalimumab may used in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.

Treatment with adalimumab has the possibility of increasing the risk of illness, because this medication decreases the immune system's response. Patients are at high risk of developing cancers and autoimmune disorders while on this medication. Doctors usually limit the use of this medication to short periods to give the body adequate time to recoup its immune levels between cycles. Typical dosing is once every two weeks.

Injected under the skin in the stomach or thigh, adalimumab is usually given only by a doctor or nurse, though some patients will have authorized caretakers trained to give the medication in a home setting. This medication comes pre-filled in a syringe that should be disposed of immediately after it is injected. Needle safety requires the use of a puncture-proof container for disposal for people or offices using this medication.

Refraining from contact with people who have the cold or flu while on this medication is important. A lower number of blood cells that fight infection in your body makes the body more susceptible to infection, which can lead to death in extreme cases. It is also important not to have any vaccines given to you while taking this medication. Live vaccines are extremely dangerous for people with a compromised immune system.

Possible side effects of adalimumab can be mild to severe. Mild side effects include fever, sweating and feeling tired. These mild side effects can last for a few hours or the duration of time the patient is taking this medication. More severe side effects include shortness of breath, numbness in the extremities and seizures. Patients should contact their medical provider if they have any of these side effect symptoms.

Previous medical conditions should be shared with the physician before adalimumab is given to avoid complications. Serious side effects are more common for patients with a history of tuberculosis, hepatitis B, kidney or liver disease. Injection site reactions such as redness, swelling and itching are normal but should still be discussed between the patient and physician.

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