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Cimzia® (certolizumab pegol)

Cimzia is a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor that is used to treat certain people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Biologic medications are generally used in the treatment of AS which has not been adequately managed with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Cimzia is also approved to treat Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and plaque psoriasis.1

What is the ingredient in Cimzia?

The active ingredient in Cimzia is certolizumab pegol, a PEGylated TNF inhibitor. PEG is polyethylene glycol, a substance that is attached to a protein to make it stay in the body longer.1

How does Cimzia work?

TNF is one of the chemical proteins found in the body that is involved in the inflammatory response. In people with AS, there is an excess or abnormal amount of TNF in the body, which leads to joint pain and stiffness. Cimzia binds to TNF-alpha and neutralizes its role in the inflammatory process, helping reduce the inflammation and relieve the symptoms of AS.1,2

In 2018, the FDA approved a label update to the Cimzia that includes data showing negligible to low transfer of the biologic through the placenta and minimal mother-to-infant transfer from breast milk. This data is unique among TNF inhibitors and it is thought that the pegylation on Cimzia does not allow it to cross over into the placenta so that it can be taken throughout a woman’s reproductive health journey.

What are the possible side effects of Cimzia?

Because Cimzia interferes with one of the proteins involved in the immune system function (TNF-alpha), it may impair your body’s ability to fight infections. Some people have experienced serious infections with TNF inhibitors like Cimzia, including tuberculosis (TB), bacterial sepsis, invasive fungal infections, and opportunistic infections. Some of these serious infections may lead to hospitalizations or death.1,2

TNF inhibitors like Cimzia may increase the risk of developing lymphoma or other types of cancer. This risk may be increased in children and young adults.1,2

Cimzia may cause a serious allergic reaction. Patients who experience hives, trouble breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, or mouth should seek immediate medical attention.1,2

The most common side effects experienced by patients taking Cimzia include upper respiratory infection, rash, and urinary tract infection.1

These are not all the potential side effects of Cimzia. For more information, patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect. Any new or worsening side effects should be reported to a doctor or healthcare professional.

Things to know about Cimzia

Before starting treatment with Cimzia, patients should talk to their doctors about all their medical conditions, especially if they:1,2

  • Have any signs of infection (fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, shortness of breath, sores, diarrhea, burning during urination) or are prone to frequent infections
  • Have any open cuts or sores
  • Have diabetes, HIV, or a weak immune system
  • Tested positive for TB or have been in close contact with someone who has TB
  • Were born in, lived in, or traveled to countries where there is an increased risk of TB (ask your doctor if you aren’t sure)
  • Live in areas of the US (like the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys) where known for fungal infections
  • Have or have had hepatitis B
  • Have any nervous system problems like seizures, multiple sclerosis, or Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Have or have had cancer
  • Have or have had heart failure
  • Are scheduled to receive a vaccine
  • Are allergic to rubber or latex
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding

Before beginning treatment with Cimzia, patients should talk to their doctors about all medications (over-the-counter and prescription), vitamins, and supplements they are taking, especially any other biologics. Some medications or supplements may increase the risk of side effects if taken in combination with Cimzia.1,2

Patients should be tested for TB before beginning treatment with Cimzia.1,2

If an infection occurs while taking Cimzia, patients should contact their doctor. If the infection becomes serious, treatment with Cimzia may be stopped.1,2

Patients taking Cimzia should not receive live vaccines.1,2

During treatment with Cimzia, patients should be monitored for any possible heart problems, anemia, infection, cancers, and nerve damage.1

Dosing information

Cimzia is administered by injection under the skin (subcutaneously). To treat the symptoms of AS, 400 mg (2 injections of 200 mg each) is given at week 0, week 2 and week 4, followed by either 200 mg every other week or 400 mg every 4 weeks.1 Patients should talk to their doctor about any questions on their dosing regimen.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: February 2019
  1. Cimzia prescribing information. Available at https://www.cimzia.com/sites/default/files/docs/CIMZIA_full_prescribing_information.pdf. Accessed 1/17/19.
  2. Cimzia product website. Available at https://www.cimzia.com/about-cimzia. Accessed 1/17/19.