Enbrel, which is also known by its generic name etanercept, is a biologic medication. Enbrel has more than 16 years of collective clinical experience. The first clinical trials of Enbrel began in 1992.
In April 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis and in January 2002 for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.
It is also approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Enbrel is administered by means of an injection that is taken by the patient himself or herself under the skin once or twice per week.
Enbrel is a medicine that definitely affects the immune system. It not only lowers the immunity to fight infections but is also known to cause serious infections such as tuberculosis (TB) and infections caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria that have spread throughout the body. Some patients have even died from these infections. Enbrel is a type of protein called a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker that blocks the action of a substance called TNF made by the human body. Tumor necrosis factor is made by the body's immune system. People with immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and plaque psoriasis have too much TNF in their bodies. Enbrel can reduce the amount of TNF in the body. However, while enbrel obstructs the damage caused by excessive TNF, it also lowers the ability of the immune system to fight infections. Therefore, the consumption of this medicine can increase one’s susceptibility to infections or worsen any present infection.
Since the year 1998, enbrel has been available in the market and has been used by hundreds of thousands of patients. The common side effects of this medicine are known by studies based on patients with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Some of the mild side effects are reported to include dizziness; sore throat; cough; stomach pain, injection site reactions like redness, itching, pain, swelling; upper respiratory infections; headache and rhinitis. Most patients do not stop the intake of enbrel due to these mild side effects. Moreover, these effects are generally observed after the first dose of Enbrel and may decrease after additional doses. However, certain serious infections, including some fatalities, have also been reported with the use of enbrel. Rare cases of multiple sclerosis and other central nervous system disorders; and blood disorders resulting in persistent fever, bruising, bleeding or paleness have been observed in association with enbrel, although the connection between the disorders and the medication remains unclear. It has been studied that these infections often occur in patients using other medications that suppress the immune system. Serious infections are rare in patients taking enbrel alone.
It is advisable to evaluate patients for latent tuberculosis infections by getting a TB skin test prior to treatment with enbrel as it is important to treat any traces of hidden TB before commencing with the medication. The medication is also not recommended for those suffering from an active infection and for people having a history of recurring infections. Doctors are usually cautious while prescribing enbrel to heart patients, as there have been reports of the worsening of congestive heart failure in a small number of patients taking enbrel, as well as rare reports of new cases of congestive heart failure.
Enbrel is designed in such a way that it needs to be taken continuously to maintain improvement otherwise the symptoms of the disease tend to return. However, looking at the range of side effects, it seems essential to be vigilant and to be in continuous touch with one’s physician.
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