Enbrel (etanercept) is a prescription brand-name medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psoriatic arthritis in adults.

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that can occur in people with psoriasis. It causes joint pain and swelling, as well as psoriasis plaques on your skin. Plaques are scaly, discolored patches of skin.

Here are the basics on Enbrel:

  • Active ingredient: etanercept
  • Drug class: tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker
  • Drug form: liquid solution given by subcutaneous injection
  • Available as biosimilar: no

Read on for more information about Enbrel and its use in treating psoriatic arthritis. You can also refer to this article for a comprehensive look at Enbrel and its other uses.

Enbrel is approved to treat psoriatic arthritis. Below are details on using Enbrel for this purpose.

Dosage

The recommended Enbrel dosage for treating psoriatic arthritis is one 50-milligram (mg) injection every week. Enbrel may be taken by itself or with the drug methotrexate (Trexall) for this use.

Note: In addition to treating psoriatic arthritis, Enbrel has other uses. Keep in mind that the drug’s dosage may differ with these other uses. To learn more, talk with your doctor.

How to use

Enbrel comes in several different forms, but all forms of the drug are given by subcutaneous injection.

You’ll likely get your first Enbrel injection at your doctor’s office. Your doctor or pharmacist may then show you how to give yourself Enbrel injections at home. Enbrel injections can be given in your thigh, upper arm, or belly (except for within 2 inches of your belly button).

The Enbrel website contains detailed step-by-step instructions and videos on how to use Enbrel, depending on the form of the drug your doctor prescribed for you.

How often to use

For treating psoriatic arthritis, it’s recommended that you get one 50-mg Enbrel injection every week. You should try to have your Enbrel injections on the same day each week. This helps keep a stable level of the medication in your body.

Below are some frequently asked questions about using Enbrel to treat psoriatic arthritis.

Can Enbrel relieve joint pain?

In a clinical study, adults with psoriatic arthritis treated with Enbrel reported better relief of joint pain compared with people who received a placebo.* Joint pain was defined as tenderness and swelling in joints.

If you have additional questions about Enbrel and relieving joint pain, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* A placebo is a treatment with no active drug.

Can I use NSAIDs together with Enbrel to treat psoriatic arthritis?

As long as your doctor approves, it’s safe to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with Enbrel. There aren’t any known drug interactions between Enbrel and NSAIDs.

When taken for psoriatic arthritis, NSAIDs may help relieve joint swelling and morning stiffness, and they may help improve joint range of motion. Examples of NSAIDs include:

Although many NSAIDs are available over the counter, it’s very important that you don’t take these medications with Enbrel without first talking with your doctor. Your doctor can work with you to determine the best treatments for your psoriatic arthritis.

Enbrel is approved to treat psoriatic arthritis. This is a type of arthritis that people with psoriasis may have. The condition causes joint pain and swelling, as well as psoriasis plaques on your skin. Plaques are scaly, discolored patches of skin.

Psoriatic arthritis is caused by your immune system attacking certain tissues in your body, such as your joints. This causes inflammation (damage and swelling).

The way Enbrel works

Enbrel contains the active drug etanercept. Etanercept works by blocking a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is a protein produced by your body that causes inflammation. People with psoriatic arthritis have higher levels of TNF in their joints, which causes too much inflammation in the affected area.

Enbrel lowers the amount of inflammation in your body, including in your joints, by blocking TNF. This can help reduce symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.

How long does it take for Enbrel to work for psoriatic arthritis?

Enbrel starts working to treat psoriatic arthritis as soon as you have your first injection. But you may not notice any improvements in your symptoms for a few weeks after you start the drug. In a clinical study, people taking Enbrel reported an improvement in their psoriatic arthritis symptoms 4 weeks after they began taking the drug.

It can be hard to predict how quickly Enbrel may work to treat psoriatic arthritis, and this may differ in each person. If you have questions about how to evaluate whether Enbrel is working for you, talk with your doctor.

The use of Enbrel for psoriatic arthritis may cause side effects that are mild or serious. The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported with Enbrel use. For information on other potential side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see our article on Enbrel or refer to Enbrel’s medication guide.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a medication, it tracks and reviews side effects of the drug. If you develop a side effect while taking Enbrel and would like to inform the FDA, visit MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects of Enbrel can include:

  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • pain or redness at the injection site
  • respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • rash

These side effects of Enbrel may be temporary, lasting for a few days or weeks. But if they last for a longer time, or if they bother you or become severe, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Although serious side effects from Enbrel aren’t common, they can occur.

Serious side effects caused by Enbrel can include:

Call your doctor right away if you develop serious side effects while using Enbrel. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

* Enbrel has boxed warnings for these side effects. A boxed warning is the most serious warning from the FDA. To learn more, see the “Before using Enbrel” section below.

A clinical study found Enbrel to be effective for treating psoriatic arthritis.

Researchers compared how people rated certain psoriatic arthritis symptoms before and after 6 months of treatment. These symptoms included joint pain and the number of swollen and tender joints people had. For treatment, people took either Enbrel or a placebo (a treatment with no active drug).*

At the end of the study, the people who’d taken Enbrel reported better improvement in their psoriatic arthritis symptoms compared with the people who’d received a placebo.

* People who were taking methotrexate (Trexall) for psoriatic arthritis before the study continued taking the drug with their other treatment during this study.

Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that people with psoriasis may have. It causes painful and swollen joints, along with psoriasis plaques on your skin. Plaques are scaly, discolored patches of skin. They may be purple on black skin or red or pink on lighter skin.

Psoriatic arthritis is caused by your immune system attacking certain tissues in your body, such as your joints and skin. This causes inflammation (damage and swelling), which can lead to symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. It isn’t known what causes the immune system in people with psoriatic arthritis to attack its own body.

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can include:

  • eye inflammation, which may cause pain, redness, and irritation in and around your eyes
  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • joint pain or stiffness
  • lower back pain
  • nail changes, such as pitting or separation
  • pain in your feet or ankles
  • reduced range of motion in your joints
  • swelling or warmth in your joints, fingers, or toes

Before you use Enbrel, there’s some important information to keep in mind. The drug may not be a safe option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Some of these are mentioned below.

Boxed warnings

This drug has boxed warnings. These are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A boxed warning alerts doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Serious infections. Enbrel works by weakening your immune system. For this reason, you may have an increased risk for developing serious infections while taking Enbrel. In some cases, these infections have been serious enough to lead to hospitalization and, rarely, death.

If you develop any symptoms of a serious infection while taking Enbrel (such as fever, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea), contact your doctor right away. Before you start treatment, your doctor will test you for tuberculosis. If your test result is positive, your doctor will likely treat your infection before you start taking Enbrel. And, as you’re taking Enbrel, your doctor will watch for any signs or symptoms of serious infections. If you develop a serious infection, your doctor may decide to have you stop taking Enbrel.

Cancers. In children and young adults taking Enbrel, there have been reports of certain types of cancers, such as lymphoma (a type of blood cancer). People with very severe psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis were at higher risk for developing cancer than those whose condition was mild or moderate. If you have concerns about your cancer risk, or if you develop any possible symptoms of cancer while taking Enbrel, talk with your doctor.

Other warnings

In addition to boxed warnings, Enbrel has other warnings.

If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors are relevant to you, talk with your doctor before using Enbrel:

  • if you have a history of tuberculosis or hepatitis B
  • if you have an active infection
  • if you have diabetes
  • if you have congestive heart failure
  • if you have a neurological (brain or spinal cord) condition, such as multiple sclerosis
  • if you have moderate-to-severe alcoholic hepatitis
  • if you recently received certain vaccines or will soon need certain vaccines
  • if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • if you’re breastfeeding or thinking of breastfeeding
  • if you’ve had an allergic reaction to the drug or any of its ingredients

How much Enbrel costs depends on several factors. These can include your prescribed treatment regimen, the insurance plan you have, the pharmacy you use, and your location. For estimates of how much Enbrel costs, see GoodRx.com.

Enbrel is a brand-name biologic medication that’s not available as a generic or biosimilar. A generic drug is an exact copy of the active drug in a brand-name medication that’s made from chemicals. A biosimilar drug, on the other hand, is a medication that’s similar to a brand-name biologic drug. (Because biologic drugs are made from living cells, it’s not possible to copy these drugs exactly.)

Now that you’ve learned about Enbrel for psoriatic arthritis, you may still have some questions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist, who can advise you on whether Enbrel might be right for you.

Here are some other helpful references:

  • More details. For details about other aspects of Enbrel, refer to this article.
  • Drug comparison. To find out how Enbrel compares with Humira, read this article.
  • Information on psoriatic arthritis. For more information on psoriatic arthritis, see our list of psoriatic arthritis articles.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.