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What is adalimumab?

Adalimumab (trade name Humira) is a type of drug known as anti-TNF (anti-tumour necrosis factor). In people with rheumatoid arthritis and some other inflammatory diseases a protein called TNF is overproduced in the body, causing inflammation and damage to bones, cartilage and tissue. Anti-TNF drugs block the action of TNF and so reduce this inflammation.

Why is adalimumab prescribed?

Adalimumab is available for people with rheumatoid arthritispsoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, and for children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). There are guidelines for prescribing it so your doctor will have to assess whether you meet certain criteria before they can give it to you.

How do I take adalimumab and how long does it take to work?

The usual dose of adalimumab is an injection of 40 mg once every 2 weeks. If you respond to adalimumab you’ll probably feel better in 2–12 weeks.

What are the possible side-effects of adalimumab?

The most common side-effects of adalimumab are reactions at the injection site, such as redness, swelling or pain. It can also make you more likely to develop infections.

You should stop adalimumab and see your doctor immediately if:

  • you have any signs of infection
  • you haven’t had chickenpox and you come into contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles
  • you develop chickenpox or shingles.

What are the risks of taking adalimumab?

Adalimumab may make you more likely to pick up infections and it's recommended that you avoid live vaccines. There's no known interaction between adalimumab and alcohol.

If you're female, you should use contraception while on adalimumab as we don't yet know how it might affect an unborn baby. Breastfeeding isn't recommended while on adalimumab.

    What else should I know about adalimumab?

    Before you start taking adalimumab, your doctor and rheumatology nurse specialist will discuss other treatment options with you. You'll probably have screening for tuberculosis (TB) or hepatitis, as well as blood tests.

    While taking adalimumab, you should discuss any new medications (including complementary medicines) with your doctor before you start them. Always tell any other doctor treating you that you’re on adalimumab and carry a biological therapy alert card. If you need an operation, speak to your doctor about whether you need to stop taking adalimumab before the surgery.

    Adalimumab isn’t a painkiller. You can carry on taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) or painkillers unless your doctor advises otherwise.

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