Frequently Asked Questions About Humira

Humira Is Used to Treat Crohn's Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Close up of nurse preparing a syringe for an injection
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Humira (adalimumab) is a human monoclonal antibody. It works by blocking tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), a cytokine which plays a role in the inflammatory process.

People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have an abnormal amount of TNF-alpha, and it is thought that this plays a role in the disease process. Humira stops TNF-alpha from being used by the body.

How Is Humira Taken?

Humira comes in the form of an injection and should be stored in a refrigerator.

The injection is given under the skin (subcutaneously) either at home or in a doctor's office. Humira is given once every other week or sometimes every week. The dosage is normally 40 milligrams. Humira should not be injected into the same location on the body two times in a row. Patients should rotate where they give the injection -- normally the abdomen or the front of either thigh. The prescribing doctor will provide any special instructions and describe how to administer the injection at home, if necessary. If you have questions on how to give the injection, you can call (800) 4HUMIRA (448-6472).

Why Is Humira Prescribed?

Humira may be prescribed for Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of IBD. It is typically given after other drugs have been tried and are not working or if the symptoms of IBD are very severe. Humira is approved for use in adults and in children over the age of 6.

Humira may reduce common IBD symptoms (pain, fatigue and diarrhea) or may induce remission. In one clinical trial of patients with Crohn's disease, 40 to 47 percent of patients treated with Humira were in remission after 26 weeks of treatment. After 56 weeks, about 40% of the patients were still in remission.

Who Should Not Take Humira?

Tell your doctor if you are scheduled for any kind of surgery or have had a recent vaccination. Also let your doctor know if you have or ever had any of the following conditions:

What Are the Side Effects of Humira?

The most common side effect of Humira is pain, irritation, swelling or itching at the site of the injection. Other common side effects include headache, rash and nausea. There is a risk of developing a serious infection when taking Humira, although it is unlikely. Tell your doctor if you develop any signs or symptoms of an infection or if any other side effects are bothersome or don't go away.

What Medications Can Humira Interact With?

It is not recommended that Humira be taken with other TNF-blocking agents, such as Kineret (anakinra), live vaccines or methotrexate. Tell your doctor if you are taking any drugs that suppress the immune system, such as cyclosporine.

Are There Any Food Interactions?

There are no known food interactions.

Is Humira Safe During Pregnancy?

The FDA has classified Humira as a Type B drug. Studies on animals show no evidence of harm to the fetus; however, there are no adequate, well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Humira should only be used in pregnant women when clearly needed. Notify the prescribing doctor if you become pregnant while taking Humira.

One small study showed that Humira does cross the placenta and enter the bloodstream of a fetus during the last trimester of pregnancy. Humira could be found in the infant's bloodstream up to 3 months after birth. It is recommended that babies born to mothers taking Humira be checked closely for infection for the first 6 months of life, and not receive any live-virus vaccinations during that time.

It is not known if Humira passes into breast milk; however, other similar substances have been shown to pass into breast milk. Breast-feeding while taking Humira is not recommended.

What Do I Do If I Miss a Dose?

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Then take your next dose at the regularly scheduled time. Don't double up or take more than one dose at a time.

Sources:

Abbott Laboratories. "Humira Medication Guide." Humira.com Mar 2011. 17 Apr 2011.

Colombel JF, Sandborn WJ, Rutgeerts P, Enns R, Hanauer SB, Panaccione R, Schreiber S, Byczkowski D, Li J, Kent JD, Pollack PF. "Adalimumab for maintenance of clinical response and remission in patients with Crohn's disease: the CHARM trial." Gastroenterology 2007 Jan;132:52-65. 17 Apr 2011.

Mahadevan U. "Adalimumab Levels Detected in Cord Blood and Infants Exposed In Utero (Abstract #277)" Digestive Disease Week 2011. 26 Feb 2012.

PDR Health. "Humira." Thomson Healthcare 2008. 17 Apr 2011.

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