By Kerry Weiss

Medically reviewed by Matthew J. Hamilton, MD

If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and have been prescribed Humira (adalimumab) as a part of your treatment regimen, you may have a lot of questions about this medication. Here’s what you should know.

1. Humira is a safe, effective treatment for IBD.

Humira is a type of biologic medication that’s prescribed to treat moderate to severe Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Humira falls under the class of biologics called tumor necrosis factor antagonists, or anti-TNFs, which work by targeting a specific protein, called TNF-α, to help control inflammation and help people with IBD find relief from their symptoms.

2. The risks sounds scary, but they’re relatively minor.

Most commonly, Humira can affect your body’s ability to fight off infections, though there are plenty of precautions you can take to stay healthy. People who take Humira are also at a small increased risk of developing certain cancers, like lymphoma or skin cancer—but the risk is still low.

3. Humira is administered as a subcutaneous injection.

Humira is given as an injection under the skin of your abdomen or thigh. The injection itself takes about 10 seconds. Your doctor will review how to administer Humira, and once you’re ready, you or a family member can perform these injections at home.

4. Once treatment is established, you can self-inject every two weeks.

Most people start off with four injections (160 mg) as their first dose; two weeks later, they’ll get two injections (80mg). From there on out, it’s usually one injection (40mg) every two weeks (that you can do in the comfort of your own home).

5. If effective, you may start to feel better in as little as 4 weeks.

While individual results may vary, people with Crohn’s disease may start to feel improvements in about 4 weeks; and some people with ulcerative colitis may actually achieve remission in as little as 8 weeks. Be sure to follow up with your doctor to assess your results after 8 weeks of treatment. This is important so that your medical therapy can be adjusted if need be based on your initial treatment response.

6. There are certain side effects to be aware of.

One of the most common side effects that people who take Humira experience is injection site reactions, including redness, rash, swelling, itching, pain, or bruising. However, a newer formulation, called Humira Citrate-free, is less likely to cause injection site pain. Most new prescriptions for Humira include this formulation but you may want to ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Other side effects include upper respiratory infections—especially sinus infections—as well as headaches, rashes, and nausea. If you experience any side effects, be sure to talk to your doctor.

7. It’s important to store your medication properly.

Humira should be stored away from light, in its original container, in your refrigerator—ideally it should be kept somewhere between 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not freeze your medication, or use it if it’s been frozen then thawed. Once you remove it from the refrigerator, it can be stored at room temperature (up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit) if it’s kept out of the light, but it must be used or discarded within 14 days.

8. There are options to help you afford your treatment.

While treatment is costly, most health insurance plans cover Humira, so you’ll likely only have to pay your regular co-pay or deductible. If you don’t have insurance, or your insurance doesn’t cover the cost of your medication, Humira offers a savings card to help you pay for your prescription.

9. You should talk to your doctor if you’re planning to become pregnant.

While Humira is considered to be low-risk in pregnancy, it can cross the placenta in high levels the further along you get. If you get the green light to take Humira while you’re pregnant, be sure to work closely with your doctor, who may suggest giving a dose in the middle of your third trimester, then holding off for your next dose until after you give birth. If you decide to breastfeed, taking Humira should be fine, as it does not appear in breast milk—but be sure to confirm with your doctor.

10. Don’t stop taking Humira (unless your doctor says so).

There’s no cure for IBD—but biologic treatments like Humira can help you achieve and maintain remission. So it’s important to follow your treatment plan as prescribed, even in remission—never stop taking your IBD medication unless directed by your doctor. If you have any questions about your treatment plan, be sure to talk to your doctor. And know that, despite the risks of Humira, it’s a safe and effective medication for treating IBD.

Medical reviewer and Oshi physician-partner Matthew J. Hamilton, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Endoscopy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Crohn’s and Colitis Center in Boston. He is a leading member of the research team at the BWH Crohn’s and Colitis Center, and has garnered national recognition for his research into the underlying inflammatory processes of IBD.

Oshi is a tracking tool and content resource. It does not render medical advice or services, and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should always review this information with your healthcare professionals.