Remicade vs. Humira

  • Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Remicade vs. Humira comparison

Remicade (infliximab) and Humira (adalimumab) are both laboratory-synthesized proteins. They are different chemicals on a molecular level, but they are designed to do the same thing: block a specific immune antibody that causes inflammation in a half-dozen different autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis.

The side effects common to both Remicade and Humira include:

The chief worry for a patient taking these injections, however, is the risk of a bacterial or fungal infection. After all, the express goal of both Remicade and Humira is to suppress the immune system. This helps control the symptoms of autoimmune disorders, but also decreases your body's ability to fight infections.

Drug interactions are minimal, but doctors should never administer live vaccines to people taking infliximab and adalimumab because of the immune suppression effects mentioned above.

What are Remicade and Humira?

Remicade and Humira are injectable monoclonal antibodies (a type of synthesized protein made from cells in a lab) in the class of medications called TNF blockers or TNF inhibitors. This class also includes:

In autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis and the other conditions Remicade and Humira are approved to treat, the immune system mistakes the body's own cells for foreign ones and attacks them, causing inflammation, pain, tissue destruction and other associated symptoms.

TNF alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha) is one of a number of different antibodies produced by white blood cells and other parts of the immune system. TNF alpha plays an important role in coordinating immune attacks on foreign invaders in the body, like viruses or bacteria. In the case of the disorders in question, the victims of the destruction initiated and controlled by TNF alpha is the body's own tissues.

Remicade, Humira and the other members of the TNF inhibitor class are different types of protein molecules all designed to achieve the same goal: binding to the TNF alpha molecules to render them harmless, thereby reducing inflammation, whether it's in the joints, skin, or bowels.

Neither Remicade nor Humira can cure any of the diseases for which they're approved as treatment, but each medication can dramatically reduce the symptoms, such as joint pain. Furthermore, in rheumatoid arthritis, infliximab and adalimumab can slow damage to the joint. Because both of these biologically derived medications (biologic drugs) modify the course of the disease in addition to alleviating symptoms, they are known as "disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs" or DMARDs.

Sometimes, infliximab or adalimumab are used in conjunction with other DMARDs that work by different mechanisms, such as Methotrexate (Rheumatrex). Methotrexate is an antimetabolite that interferes with cell function rather than blocking a specific antibody as infliximab and adalimumab do.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/27/2017

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