Humira® (adalimumab)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2022 | Last updated: July 2022

Humira is a biologic medication that may be used to treat certain adults with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Generally, biologic medications are used in the treatment of AS that has not been adequately managed with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Humira is also approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, plaque psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, hidradenitis suppurativa, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and non-infectious uveitis.1

What is the ingredient in Humira?

The active ingredient in Humira is adalimumab, a monoclonal antibody that blocks tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).1

How does Humira work?

TNF is a naturally occurring protein, called a cytokine, that is involved in the normal inflammatory response in the body. In people with AS, there is chronic inflammation at the joints, as well as the locations where the ligaments and tendons attach to the bone (called enthesitis). People with AS have an excess or abnormal inflammatory response and elevated levels of TNF. This inflammation causes pain and stiffness in the joints. Humira is a monoclonal antibody binds to TNF-alpha blocking its ability to interact with the receptor. By blocking TNF, Humira can help reduce the inflammation in the body and help relieve the symptoms of AS.1

What are the possible side effects of Humira?

The most common side effects experienced by patients taking Humira include reactions to the injection site (pain, redness, rash, swelling, itching, or bruising), upper respiratory infections, headaches, rash, and nausea.

Because TNF is involved in the normal immune response of inflammation, taking a TNF blocker like Humira can make it harder to fight certain infections. Humira may cause serious infections, including tuberculosis (TB), bacterial sepsis, and invasive fungal or viral infections. These serious infections may lead to hospitalization or death.1,2

TNF blockers like Humira can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including skin cancers and lymphoma. Some people taking TNF blockers for inflammatory bowel disease have developed a rare, aggressive form of cancer called hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma, which often leads to death.1

Humira 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

This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Humira. 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 Humira

Before starting treatment with Humira, patients should talk to their doctors about all their medical conditions, especially if they1,2:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Are scheduled to have surgery
  • 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

Patients should be tested for TB before beginning treatment with Humira.1

Before beginning treatment with Humira, 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 Humira.1,2

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

Patients taking this medication should not receive live vaccines.1

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

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