Humira® (adalimumab)

Sounds like 'hew-mee-rah' ('AY-da-LIM-ew-mab').

Easy-to-read medicine information about Humira (adalimumab) – what is it, how to use Humira safely and possible side effects. Humira is also called adalimumab.

Type of medicine Also called
  • TNF inhibitor
  • Humira®
  • Adalimumab

What is Humira?

Humira is used to treat some types of autoimmune conditions (diseases in which the body's defence system or immune system attacks healthy tissues) such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritisankylosing spondylitis, bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and skin diseases such as chronic plaque psoriasis.

Humira is usually used when other treatments have not worked well. It is a type of medicine called a TNF inhibitor. It works by blocking natural inflammatory substances in the body called tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa). This helps to reduce swelling (inflammation) and weaken your immune system, thereby slowing or stopping the damage from the disease. Read more about TNF inhibitors

In New Zealand, Humira is available as an injection, which is given under the skin. Humira is commonly available as a single-use pre-filled pen, but also comes as pre-filled syringes. The dose of Humira is different for different people, depending on its use.

Dose of Humira 

  • The usual dose is 40 mg every 2 weeks. Some people may be prescribed a higher dose to start with.
  • Inject Humira exactly as your doctor or nurse has told you. The pharmacy label will tell you how much Humira to use, how often to use it and any special instructions. 
  • You may not notice the effects of Humira straight away. It may take 2 weeks or up to 6 months.

How to use Humira

Humira is given as an injection, just under the skin (called subcutaneous injection). Some people can give themselves the injection or it can be given by another person, for example, a family member or friend after proper training, or by your doctor or nurse. 

If you are unsure about how to inject Humira, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to show you. The following video is a basic guide on how to use Humira pen. For more detailed videos see, Humira.

(John Hopkins Rheumatology, 2014)

Tips for injection

  • Preparation: Humira is usually stored in the fridge. Take your Humira pen out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before injecting. Do not warm Humira in any other way; for example, do not warm it in the microwave or in hot water.
  • Injection sites: choose an injection site, such as on the front of your thighs or your abdomen (belly) at least 5 cm from your belly button. The injection site should be different from your last injection site, at least 3 cm away. Do not inject into skin that is sore, bruised, red, hard, scarred, has stretch marks, or psoriasis plaques.

Note: In New Zealand, people taking Humira can get support from AbbVie Care.

Possible side effects from using Humira

Like all medicines, Humira can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.

Increased risk of infections

Because Humira weakens the body's immune system, it can make it more likely for you to get infections. These infections may be mild (such as colds, sinusitis) or more severe such as tuberculosis (TB) and septicaemia (infection of the blood).

  • Before starting Humira, you will need to:
    • have blood tests and a chest X-ray to check for infections.
    • check with your doctor what vaccines you might need. You should not have a live vaccine while using Humira.
  • Tell your doctor immediately:
    • if you come into contact with someone who has an infection such as TB (tuberculosis) while you are taking Humira
    • if you develop an ongoing cough, weight loss, fever, sore throat, bruising, or bleeding.
  • You will need to be monitored for infections during treatment and for several months after you have stopped taking it.
    • Before you start taking Humira let your doctor know if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, if you have TB or Hepatitis B.

Other side effects

Side effects What should I do?
  • Reaction at the injection site such as bruising, redness, tenderness
  • Change the site for each subcutaneous injection (see tips above)
  • Tell your doctor if this does not settle 
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Indigestion
  • Tummy upset
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Problems sleeping, anxiety, depression
  • Let your doctor know or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Blood in your stools (poo), coughing up blood (red or brown) or other signs of bleeding such as bruising
  • Let your doctor know or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
  • Signs of problems with your heart such as swollen feet or legs or problems breathing, shortness of breath, or feeling like your heart is racing.  
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116 
  • Signs of TB such as a cough that won’t go away, night sweats, fever, weight loss. 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116 
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as muscle or joint pain, fever, rash, intense itching, swelling of the face or hands, sore throat, headache, or difficulty swallowing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116 

Learn more about Humira

The following links have more information on Humira. 

Humira® Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet

References

  1. Adalimumab New Zealand Formulary
Credits: Sandra Ponen, pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 05 Aug 2019