Humira (adalimumab) is a prescription brand-name medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat moderate to severe chronic (long-term) plaque psoriasis in certain adults.
With plaque psoriasis, your immune system mistakenly attacks your body’s skin cells. This causes your body to rapidly make new skin cells. These cells pile up on the surface of your skin, forming scaly patches called plaques.
Here are the basics on Humira:
- Active ingredient: adalimumab, which is a
- Drug class: tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker
- Drug form: liquid solution that’s given by subcutaneous injection using either a prefilled pen, prefilled syringe, or a vial and syringe
- Available as biosimilar: no*
Read on for more information on Humira and its use in treating plaque psoriasis. You can also refer to this article for a comprehensive look at Humira and its other uses.
* The FDA has approved
To treat plaque psoriasis, your first dose of Humira will likely be given at your doctor’s office. Humira is given as a subcutaneous injection. The first dose is typically one 80-milligram (mg) injection. A healthcare professional may show you how to give yourself injections at home.
One week after your first dose, you’ll likely start a dosage of 40 mg every other week.
Your doctor may adjust your dosage based on certain factors, including your age and other medical conditions you have. It’s important to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you.
Note: In addition to treating plaque psoriasis, Humira has other uses. Keep in mind that the drug’s dosage may differ with these other uses. To learn more, you can see this article or talk with your doctor.
Humira is a liquid solution that’s injected subcutaneously. You’ll most likely get your first Humira injection at your doctor’s office. You may be able to give yourself Humira injections at home, after your doctor shows you the proper technique.
How to use
Humira injections can be given into your thigh or abdomen (belly). You should use a different spot each time. It’s best to avoid any areas where your skin is bruised or tender.
You’ll inject the drug using a prefilled pen or a prefilled syringe. You can view video instructions about how to inject Humira on the manufacturer’s website.
How often to use
Humira is typically given every other week. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend weekly dosing.
If you miss a dose of Humira, you should inject it as soon as possible or reschedule your appointment.
If you have any questions about using Humira, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Drugs other than Humira are used to treat plaque psoriasis. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Humira, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for your condition.
Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat plaque psoriasis include:
- topical (applied to the skin) treatments, such as:
- synthetic vitamin D
- topical corticosteroids
- topical retinoids
- certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
- secukinumab (Cosentyx)
- etanercept (Enbrel)*
- methotrexate (Trexall)
- apremilast (Otezla)
- infliximab (Remicade)
- ustekinumab (Stelara)
- ixekizumab (Taltz)
- guselkumab (Tremfya)
* See “How does Humira compare to Enbrel?” in the “Frequently asked questions” section just below for more information about Enbrel.
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about Humira for plaque psoriasis.
How long does it take for Humira to work for plaque psoriasis?
It can vary. Some people notice Humira working as soon as 2 weeks after starting treatment. But some people take Humira for 4 months or longer before they notice significantly clearer skin.
If you’re not seeing any improvement in your symptoms after a few months of Humira treatment, talk with your doctor. They can recommend if you should continue with Humira treatment.
How does Humira compare to Enbrel?
Both medications belong to the same class of drugs,* called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers. They’re both approved to treat plaque psoriasis, and both are given by subcutaneous injection. Humira is injected every other week or every week. Enbrel is injected once per week.
Humira and Enbrel can cause many of the same side effects. In a
However, a newer formulation of Humira may cause injection site reactions less often. It’s called Humira Citrate-free. You and your doctor can discuss your treatment options and decide which drug is best for you. See this article for an overview of how Enbrel and Humira compare.
* A drug class is a group of medications that work in a similar way.
How long do people take Humira for plaque psoriasis?
In clinical trials, Humira was used to treat plaque psoriasis for up to 12 months. If you and your doctor decide that Humira is an effective treatment, and you don’t develop any serious or bothersome side effects, it’s likely that you’ll continue taking it long term.
If you have questions about how long you’ll need to take Humira, talk with your doctor.
Can Humira cause plaque psoriasis?
It’s possible. New or worsening psoriasis can be a serious side effect of Humira. But Humira has been shown in clinical studies to be an effective treatment for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in adults.
The use of Humira for plaque psoriasis* may cause side effects that are mild or serious. The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported with Humira use. For information on other potential side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see our article on Humira side effects or refer to Humira’s prescribing information.
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 Humira and would like to inform the FDA, visit MedWatch.
* Humira is also used to treat other conditions. The side effects for other conditions are similar to those for plaque psoriasis.
Mild side effects
Humira may cause mild side effects in some people. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But if they last longer, or if they bother you or become severe, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
More common but mild side effects of Humira can include:
- infections, such as colds or sinus infections
- skin reactions at the injection site, such as reddening or discoloration, bleeding, or pain
Serious side effects
Serious side effects can occur with Humira treatment. Call your doctor right away if you develop serious side effects while using Humira. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Less common but serious side effects of Humira may include:
- increased risk of serious infections*
- increased risk of cancer*
- heart failure
- drug-induced lupus, also called lupus-like syndrome (symptoms similar to lupus that are caused by a reaction to certain drugs)
- nervous system disorders, such as seizures or multiple sclerosis (MS)
- liver damage
- anemia (low level of red blood cells) or other blood disorders
- allergic reaction
With plaque psoriasis, your immune system attacks your body’s skin cells. This causes your body to rapidly make new skin cells. These cells pile up on the surface of the skin, forming discolored, scaly patches called plaques. Plaques most commonly appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.
Why plaque psoriasis happens isn’t fully known, but your immune system and genetics are involved. It’s typically a lifelong condition, and the symptoms usually come and go.
Symptoms of plaque psoriasis
In addition to plaques (which may appear red or silvery), symptoms may include:
- intense itchiness
- feeling like your skin is burning, tight, or painful
Who Humira is prescribed for
Humira is not for everyone with plaque psoriasis. Your doctor may suggest it as a treatment for you if:
- you’re an adult with chronic (long-term) plaque psoriasis, and
- your plaque psoriasis is moderate to severe, and
- you’re eligible for phototherapy (light therapy) or systemic therapy (medications that work throughout your entire body) to treat plaque psoriasis, and
- your plaque psoriasis would benefit more from Humira than it would from other systemic therapies, or
- you cannot use other systemic therapies
Your doctor can give you more information about phototherapy and other systemic therapies. They’ll guide you on which treatments are likely to work best for you.
The way Humira works
Humira blocks a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). In a healthy immune system, TNF helps the body fight off infections. TNF functions by triggering an inflammatory reaction in response to a germ, such as a virus.
But in people with plaque psoriasis (or other autoimmune diseases), high levels of TNF can build up in the blood. This causes excessive inflammation, which causes symptoms to flare up (suddenly get worse).
Humira blocks TNF from causing an inflammatory reaction. This can lead to fewer flare-ups and less severe skin plaques.
Current treatment guidelines recommend adalimumab as monotherapy (single-drug treatment) for plaque psoriasis in adults. Adalimumab is the active drug in Humira.
If you’re wondering whether Humira may be effective for your plaque psoriasis, talk with your doctor.
Before you use Humira, 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.
This drug has
Risk of serious infections. Taking Humira can increase your risk for severe infections. These infections may lead to a hospital stay or, in rare cases, death. They include sepsis (a type of blood infection), tuberculosis (TB), and histoplasmosis (a fungal infection that’s similar to pneumonia).
During Humira treatment, your doctor will monitor you for infection symptoms. If you develop a serious infection, they’ll likely have you stop taking the drug.
Your doctor will also test you for certain infections, such as TB, before you start treatment. If you have an infection, they’ll treat you for it before starting Humira.
Cancer risk. Taking Humira may increase your risk for developing cancer. Cancers, including lymphomas (cancers that affect white blood cells), have occurred in people who took Humira, including children. In some cases, these cancers led to death.
A rare type of lymphoma, hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma, has been reported mainly in adolescent and young adult males* who had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Their IBD may have included Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. (Humira is also used to treat these conditions.)
* Sex and gender exist on spectrums. Use of the term “male” in this article refers to sex assigned at birth.
In addition to boxed warnings, Humira has other warnings.
If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors are relevant to you, talk with your doctor before using Humira:
- if you currently have an infection
- if you have cancer
- if you have or have had problems with your liver, heart, or nerves
- if you have or have had hepatitis B
- if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
- if you’re breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed
- if you’ve had an allergic reaction to Humira, rubber, latex, or any of Humira’s other ingredients
How much Humira costs is based on several factors. These can include your prescribed treatment plan, your insurance coverage, the pharmacy you use, and your location. If you receive Humira injections from a healthcare professional, the price is also based on the cost of the appointment.
Humira is a brand-name biologic medication. The FDA has approved the following
Biosimilars are like generic drugs. But unlike generics, which are made for nonbiologic drugs, biosimilars are made for biologic drugs. Biologic drugs usually cost more than biosimilar versions. To learn more, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Now that you’ve learned about Humira for plaque psoriasis, you may still have some questions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist, who can advise you on whether Humira might be right for you.
Here are some other helpful references:
- More details. For details about other aspects of Humira, refer to this article.
- Side effects. To learn more about side effects of Humira, see this article. You can also look at Humira’s prescribing information.
- Dosage. For more information about dosage for Humira, see this article.
- Information on your condition. For more information about plaque psoriasis, see our psoriasis hub as well as this list of related articles.
- Drug comparisons. To find out how Humira compares with similar drugs, see the following 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 another 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.