Humira (Adalimumab)

Humira (adalimumab) has many uses and is commonly prescribed to treat inflammation caused by conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis. Some studies, however, have found a link between Humira and different cancers which has led to an increase in lawsuits against the manufacturer, AbbVie.

What is Humira?

Humira (adalimumab) is classified as a Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) blocker. It was developed by Abbott Laboratories, now known as AbbVie, and received approval to treat rheumatoid arthritis in 2002. Since then, AbbVie has conducted numerous clinical studies in an effort to expand the uses of Humira. For example, recent studies have started researching ways that Humira can help treat fingernail psoriasis – a condition that causes discoloration and loosening of fingernails.

Humira has consistently been listed as a top-selling pharmaceutical drug throughout the world. In 2014, Humira global sales reached $13 billion.

Humira is commonly used to treat:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Psoriasis

Some medical professionals may also prescribe Humira to treat moderate to severe polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) in children over the age of four.

Since coming on the market, Humira has been linked to serious short- and long-term side effects. Thousands of consumers have filed lawsuits alleging that Humira causes dangerous health conditions such as tuberculosis (TB), infections caused by viruses, lymphoma, solid tissue cancers and cardiac failure.

How does Humira work?

Humira works by blocking a protein in the body’s immune system called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF causes inflammation from diseases such as arthritis and Crohn’s disease. By blocking TNF, Humira reduces joint swelling and inflammation, keeping joints healthier for longer.

Humira is administered by an injection under the skin. Your physician will guide you through how to use the prefilled syringe or dosing pen. Depending on your medical condition, the dose amount and how often you’ll need to take Humira will vary. For instance, patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be required to inject the medicine every two weeks while Crohn’s disease may involve more frequent doses.

Take Humira only as prescribed by your doctor to avoid unwanted outcomes.


Humira Side Effects

Although Humira has many benefits for treating arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, it can cause a wide range of side effects. Common side effects are minor and last a few days. Other side effects can be more serious — sometimes life-threatening — and require immediate medical attention.

Patients taking Humira have an increased risk of developing a rare but serious form of cancer called Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma (HSTCL). HSTCL is an aggressive cancer of white blood cells and has high rates of mortality. Additionally, Humira has been linked to lymphoma and other cancers.

Notify your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms of an infection such as shortness of breath, blood in phlegm, burning when you urinate, feeling very tired, painful skin sores and chills.

Common Side Effects

  • Injection site reaction (redness, bruising and itching)
  • Sinus infection
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain

Serious Side Effects

  • Hepatitis B infection
  • Blood disorders
  • Heart failure
  • Liver problems
  • Psoriasis (new or worsening)
  • Lupus-like syndrome

Who is at Risk?

Humira Risk

Adults and adolescents taking Humira have an increased risk of developing serious infections or cancer. Since Humira can reduce the number of blood cells that help your body fight infections, your doctor may recommend frequent blood tests.

Several ways to reduce your chances of coming in contact with an infection include:

  • Avoid being around family or friends who are sick or have an infection
  • Stay away from activities that can involve a bleeding injury
  • Do not share personal items like toothbrushes, towels, razors or nail clippers
  • Keep your distance from large crowds, especially around flu season

Some patients have developed a fast-growing type of lymphoma, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer while taking Humira. These conditions are very dangerous and can be life-threatening.

Talk to you doctor about your medical history before taking Humira. Oftentimes, Humira is not recommended for patients with a pre-existing health condition such as tuberculosis (TB), Guillain-Barré syndrome, cancer, heart failure or diabetes.

Humira Black Box Warning

Humira carries a black box warning, which is the FDA’s strongest label. The drug’s strict warnings are based on its risk of causing serious infections and malignancies. Humira can affect blood cells and your immune system, limiting your ability to fight infections.

Many Humira warnings came out in 2009 after the FDA investigated cases involving adolescent and child cancer reports after taking the drug. Research found that cancer began to appear approximately 30 months after treatment with Humira in children receiving treatment for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, inflammatory bowel disorder and Crohn’s disease.

Evidence of Humira Complications

Humira Complications

In the last several years, there has been a significant increase in the number of lawsuits filed against Humira’s manufacturer AbbVie. Many cases allege that Humira resulted in patients developing lymphoma.

Other patients taking Humira have developed other conditions including fungal infections, nerve damage conditions and other unusual cancers. One woman in particular developed a life-threatening histoplasmosis infection after taking Humira for less than seven months. The patient argued that AbbVie (at that time known as Abbott Laboratories) waited close to two years before notifying doctors and medical professionals about the risk of fungal infections. After the case went to trial, a jury found that AbbVie did not properly inform doctors about the serious side effects and awarded the patient $2.2 million.

Drug Reactions with Humira

Some drugs should not be taken with Humira due to possible harmful interactions. When multiple drugs are taken together, it increases the risk of a potential negative reaction. Talk to your doctor about any medications you are currently taking including ones that are prescribed, over-the-counter, supplements or vitamins.

In addition to certain drugs interacting with Humira, live vaccines can also cause a reaction. Some medical professionals recommend staying away from vaccines such as Flu-Mist, shingles vaccine, chickenpox vaccine, yellow fever vaccine and MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.

Many drugs can interact with Januvia and cause harmful reactions

Some of the drugs include:

  • Abatacept (Orencia)
  • Anakinra (Kineret)
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • Rituximab (Rituxan and MabThera)
  • Mercaptopurine (Purinethol)

Learn About Resources for Humira Side Effects

If you or someone you care about has been affected by negative side effects from Humira, learn more about financial resources and how you can pay for treatments.

Find Out More About Humira Resources Now

Sources & Author

Last Edited: October 31, 2017