What is Certolizumab (Cimzia®)?
Certolizumab is in a class of drugs called biologics. Certolizumab is a treatment for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. It is injected under the skin to reduce signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint swelling, pain, fatigue, and length of morning stiffness. Certolizumab is commonly known as Cimziaâ.
How do I take it?
Certolizumab comes in a prefilled syringe (needle). You should be instructed on how to give yourself injections by a healthcare professional. Each syringe holds 200 mg of medication. You will receive 2 doses (400mg) as the first dose and again at 2 weeks and 4 weeks. After that the dose is one shot every 2 weeks or 2 shots every 4 weeks. This medication must be refrigerated. Do not freeze this medicine.
What about side effects?
The most common side effect is serious infection. Certolizumab can lower the body’s ability to fight infection. Be sure to contact your physician if you have any type of infection or if you are planning a surgery. You may have to stop Certolizumab while being treated for an infection.
You will need to have a negative tuberculosis (TB) skin test before beginning Certolizumab therapy. You should also have negative tests for hepatitis B.
You should not take a live vaccine (Flu-Mist, chicken pox vaccine, shingles vaccine) while on Certolizumab . The flu-shot is not a live virus and all patients should consider having this vaccination yearly.
Occasionally some patients develop a reaction at the injection site such as, redness, pain or swelling. Notify your doctor to find out the best way to handle any reactions.
What about other medications?
When you are taking Certolizumab, it is very important that your doctors know if you are taking any other medicine. This includes prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as birth control pills, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Certolizumab can be taken with other medications – NSAIDS (Celebrexâ, ibuprofen, naproxen), prednisone, methotrexate, and plaquenil.
What else should I know?
You must continue your regular visits to the rheumatologist. Your doctor will monitor you for any improvements in your disease and for any signs of infections. Most patients notice an improvement in symptoms after the first or second injection.