Enbrel
Last Edited: April 20th, 2012

Coupons for Enbrel

Enbrel, known as etanercept in its generic form, belongs to a class of medications called TNF inhibitors. Enbrel and its cousins have caused a minor revolution in the rheumatologic community, offering management and treatment of symptoms in conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Crohn's Disease that have never been seen before. More specifically, Enbrel has significantly improved the lives of many patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis and other immunologic conditions. Those taking Enbrel have often reported a near or full remission of their symptoms, allowing them an improved quality of life that has not been thought possible previously.

Mechanism

Enbrel is considered a biologic medication, called so because the medication is made via recent advancements in modern cell biology, biotechnology, and molecular biology. The drug is actually a protein made via DNA expression technology. The protein binds to a molecule in the human body called tumor necrosis factor, or TNF for short. TNF has long been thought to be one of the central molecules responsible for triggering the immune response in the human body. By blocking the action of TNF, the immune system is heavily downregulated (not the same thing as shut down). In people with immunologic diseases, downregulating the effects of TNF mean reducing the effect of autoimmune processes in the body. Enbrel works by binding to TNF and sticking to it, thus not letting TNF bind to other sites in the body to kick off the immune cascade.

Using Enbrel

Since Enbrel is a biologic medication, it cannot be taken by mouth. Instead, it must be injected intravenously or subcutaneously. Enbrel does not have to be take daily; your physician will give you a schedule of how to take Enbrel and when.

Side Effects and Precautions

Enbrel weakens the immune system, so your body may have a harder time fighting off infections. In addition, literature reports have described lymphoma as one of the major side effects of this medication. Lymphoma is considered a rare side effect of Enbrel, but has been seen mostly in children and young adults who have started this medication. Chronic low-grade active infections such as Hepatitis B may also flare up when taking Enbrel. Latent tuberculosis may also become active once Enbrel is taken. There are other very rare side effects such as seizures, optic neuritis, or multiple sclerosis, but the chance of each of these side effects occuring is very low and unpredictable. Each person should talk to their physician about these side effects if worried, because each person has their own individual risk for these side effects.

Before taking Enbrel, your physician may want to run some blood tests and lab tests as precautionary measures. A complete blood count, chest x-ray, and serology tests for chronic disease such as Hepatitis B may be recommended before taking this medication. Other diseases such as diabetes and weak immune systems may make you a higher risk for side effects using this medication.

Warnings

When using Enbrel, you may experience some discomfort, nausea, and unease when first using the medication, but these symptoms are typically temporary. If the following symptoms occur after taking Enbrel, cease the medication and seek out your physician immediately:

  • fever, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss
  • hives, itching, difficulty breathing
  • pain in the stomach that extends to the shoulder
  • nausea along with upper right-sided stomach pain, itching, jaundice, and clay-colored stools
  • fullness after eating a small amount of food
  • signs of infection, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, neck stiffness, and confusion)