Body Battles Arthritis Drug

Researchers gain insights into rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are taking Humira to relieve their pain. While the drug relieves pain for most patients, others find that Humira has little effect on their RA symptoms. Researchers may have discovered why the drug may not work in some patients.

Researchers found that the body can recognize Humira as a foreign substance. In response, the immune system makes antibodies - which usually fight invaders like bacteria and viruses - that attach themselves to the drug and keep it from working.

"Ask your doctor if Humira is right for your RA."

Basically, some rheumatoid arthritis patients develop these anti-drug antibodies that make Humira (adalimumab) ineffective. In their conclusion, the authors write that patients who developed these antibodies had lower levels of Humira in their system as well as less of a chance of reducing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Patients with anti-Humira antibodies experienced much more disease activity than those without anti-Humira antibodies. Remission of rheumatoid arthritis was much less common in patients with anti-Humira antibodies compared to those without anti-Humira antibodies.

In Depth

For their research, Gerrit Jan Wolbink, M.D., Ph.D., from the Jan van Breemen Research Institute, and colleagues studied the formation of anti-drug antibodies in 272 rheumatoid arthritis patients over the course of three years. At the end of those three years, the researchers observed:

  • 28 percent of patients developed anti-Humira antibodies
  • Patients who did not develop anti-Humira antibodies had much higher levels of Humira in their system
  • 38 percent of the patients who developed anti-Humira antibodies stopped participating in the study because their treatment was not working, compared to only 14 percent of those without anti-Humira antibodies
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 18, 2011
Last Updated:
April 20, 2011