What is Tofacitinib (Xeljanz®/xeljanzXR®)?
Tofacitinib is a prescription medicine called a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor. Tofacitinib is a treatment for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), if methotrexate did not work for them. Tofacitinib is commonly known as Xeljanz® or XeljanzXR®.
How do I take it?
Tofacitinib is a pill. You may be prescribed one of 2 forms. Xeljanz® is a 5 mg tablet taken twice a day or XeljanzXR®, an 11mg extended release tablet that you take once a day. Your rheumatologist will decide which is best for you.
What about side effects?
- Some people have serious infections while taking Tofacitinib. You should call your doctor if you think you have an infection.
- Let your rheumatologist know if you live or have lived in places where fungal infections are more common. For example, histoplasmosis is more common in the Ohio River Valley.
- You should have a TB (tuberculosis) test and a test for hepatitis B before beginning Tofacitinib.
- There have been some cases of tears in the stomach or intestines, call your doctor if you have fever and stomach pain or there is a change in your bowel habits.
- Other side effects may include changes in your liver and other blood tests. It is important to have any blood tests that your doctor orders. Your doctor will monitor this blood work to look for problems.
- You should let your doctor know if you are planning any surgery. Tofacitinib affects your immune system and may affect healing.
What about other medications?
When you are taking Tofacitinib, 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.
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 by one month of starting treatment. Your rheumatologist may want to make sure you have had any needed vaccines before starting this medication. Live vaccines, such as the shingles vaccine, should not be given while on Tofacitinib. You should get the flu shot every year; this is not a live vaccine.
A Federal Drug Administration patient information guide is available online at:
Receive the Latest News from Johns Hopkins Rheumatology
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Johns Hopkins Rheumatology.