Enbrel, also known by its drug name, Etanercept, is a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 for people with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis that has not responded adequately to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as Methotrexate. Enbrel can decrease joint pain, swelling and stiffness, improve function, and help prevent progressive damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Enbrel is an immunomodulator, or in other words, a drug that modulates the immune system. It is also considered a biologic. It is a fusion protein created by genetic engineering. Enbrel is believed to work by attaching to tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), a chemical messenger involved in autoimmune attacks. Enbrel binds to TNF-α and prevents it from signaling the immune system to attack the connective tissues.
How do I take it?
Enbrel is injected twice a week for the first three months. After the first three months, it is injected once a week. Your doctor or nurse will train you to prepare and inject Enbrel. After you have received training, you will be able to inject it by yourself at home.
Common side effects of Enbrel include headache, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, muscle weakness, cough, and redness or pain at the injection site.
You may be more likely to contract infections, including serious infections, due to decreased immune system function while taking Enbrel. Contact your doctor if you develop signs of infection such as fever, cough, trouble breathing, white patches in the mouth, or unusual vaginal discharge.
Enbrel may increase your chances of developing certain types of cancer such as lymphoma. Tell your doctor immediately if you experience unexplained weight loss, swollen lymph nodes or easy bruising or bleeding.
For answers to frequently asked questions about exposure to Enbrel during pregnancy and breastfeeding, visit the experts at MothertoBaby.org.