Infliximab is given by injection (infusion) into a vein
(intravenously) every 4 to 8 weeks.
How It Works
Infliximab reduces the effects of tumor
necrosis factor (TNF). TNF is a protein that attaches to the joint surface and
inflammation and joint damage. Infliximab blocks the
action of TNF and helps reduce the symptoms and slow the progression of
rheumatoid arthritis. Infliximab is an
immunosuppressive medication, which means that it reduces the activity in the
immune system. Infliximab is a disease-modifying
antirheumatic drug (DMARD), which means it slows the progression of rheumatoid
arthritis. DMARDs are also called immunosuppressive drugs or slow-acting
antirheumatic drugs (SAARDs).
Infliximab is usually combined with
methotrexate to slow the progression of joint damage in people with moderate or
severe rheumatoid arthritis.1
Why It Is Used
Infliximab has shown good results in
slowing the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and, in doing so, providing
relief from pain and inflammation.1
also can be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or
Crohn's disease) and
How Well It Works
Studies have shown that people with
rheumatoid arthritis experience a rapid improvement in their symptoms when
infliximab and methotrexate are used together. Infliximab reduces disease
activity within weeks rather than several months, as with most other
The most common side effect of TNF
antagonists, such as infliximab, is an allergic reaction to the infusion
(medicine given in a vein-intravenously, or IV). If you have a
reaction to the infusion, it will happen right away, either during the infusion
or within 1 to 2 hours after the infusion. Your doctor may give you medicines
to prevent or stop the reaction.
Symptoms of an infusion site
- Shortness of breath.
- Heat and
redness (flushing) in the
Warnings about serious side effects of TNF antagonists have
been issued. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the drug’s
manufacturers have warned about:
- An increased risk of a serious infection. TNF antagonists affect
your body's ability to fight all infections. So if you get a fever, cold, or
the flu while you are taking this medicine, let your doctor know right
- An increased risk of blood or nervous system disorders. Call
your doctor if you have symptoms of blood disorders (such as bruising or
bleeding) or symptoms of nervous system problems (such as numbness, weakness,
tingling, or vision problems).
- A possible increased risk of
lymphoma (a type of blood cancer). It is not clear
whether this increase is because of the drug or because people with this
disease may already have a higher risk. There have been reports of a rare kind
of lymphoma, occurring mostly in children and teens taking TNF antagonists,
that often results in death.
- An increased risk of liver injuries.
Call your doctor if your skin starts to look yellow, if you are very tired, or
if you have a fever or dark brown urine.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Infliximab should not be used by
pregnant women or women of childbearing age who are not using reliable birth
control. If you are going to take infliximab, you should be on some form of
reliable birth control. If you plan to become pregnant, check with your doctor before stopping birth control and trying to become
Infliximab is given by an injection (infusion) into a
vein (intravenously). An IV is inserted into your arm and the medicine is given
slowly over 2 to 4 hours. You will take diphenhydramine and acetaminophen
before the infusion to prevent reactions to the infusion such as
lightheadedness or general discomfort. The first time you get an infusion, it
will take a long time because the medicine is given very slowly. Your later
infusions will not take as long because the medicine will be infused more
quickly. You will get infusions every 4 to 8 weeks. If your symptoms are not
improving with infliximab, your doctor may increase your dose or you will get
infusions more often.
Because infliximab is a relatively new
medicine, long-term benefits and side effects are not known.
Infliximab is significantly more expensive than some other DMARDs.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Kwoh CK, et al. (2002). Guidelines for the management
of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis and Rheumatism,