person using a self inject biologic

5 Tips for Starting a Self-Injection Biologic

My husband, Keegan, has perfected the art of the biologic. I remember the first time he took it. He was so psyched up to do it that I ended up doing the injection for him. (And mind you, Keegan has a sleeve of tattoos.) It's a strange idea to inject yourself with medication regularly, especially when that medication may or may not bring relief.

1. Plan your time and space accordingly

Keegan takes Humira twice weekly on Saturday nights. That's for two reasons: 1. Taking it at night gets him through some of the initial symptoms of the injection and 2. If he gets a bad "Humira hangover" then he has the weekend to process it. And I'm around to help with the kids. He always recommends following the advice on the package to make sure the injection is at the right temperature. For example on Humira, leaving it out for 10 minutes helps the stinging sensation that can happen. Be sure to have a sharps container so that you properly dispose of the syringe afterward.

2. It's just a needle, but ask for help

I remember Keegan watching videos on YouTube of how to use the self-injection pen. Humira comes in either a syringe, like a vaccine, or in a pen, which makes "getting it right" much easier. Keegan reminds himself that this moment is an act of self-care. He puts on some music, does some deep breathing, and only injects the medication when his body is ready. Like I mentioned, it's not bad to ask for help. He couldn't work up the nerve to do it the first time. And that's okay! If the pen is becoming too unpleasant or difficult, discuss with your doctor the possibility of a syringe instead.

3. Keep track of where you inject, so that you change it up each time

Keegan changes location each time he takes Humira. He does it on his thighs, but that's only one option. Wherever you inject, it's important to remember where it happened the last time. Humira actually has an app to help keep track of that! Doubling up on the same side can cause more pain.

4. Look up cost-saving cards and track expenses for taxes and HSAs

Biologics comes with a hefty price tag. We have private insurance and are fortunate that we have been able to budget to pay for Humira the last 3 years. We use a combination of a cost-savings card and an HSA account to pay for Humira. Just don't be surprised to see a $26,000 charge on your explanation of benefits, the insurance paperwork sent to you. Many people will only see a fraction of that cost. Before Keegan started, we called insurance to triple check that it'd be covered. Plus, Humira hires insurance specialists to help ensure patients pay the lowest possible for their medication. We called them this year and they saved us a ton of money!

5. Don't be disheartened if the medication doesn't help immediately

With a disease like AS, it's hard to stay patient. Reading stories of patients who have their lives turned around made us hopeful, but it took 4 months before Keegan saw significant improvement. One question to ask your doctor is, "How long until I should expect to see results?" And of course, let your doctor know if any adverse side effects arise!

What tips do you have for AS patients starting a self-injection?

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