In a recent medical study, findings suggested that taking the drug Humira to treat arthritis could result in an immune system reaction that makes it less effective. Researchers reported that roughly one-third of patients who take the drug have such a reaction, which explains why some patients find relief while taking Humira and others gain little to no benefit. Humira (generic name adalimumab), is created by Abbott Laboratories, and belongs to a drug class called biologics. For those in whom the drug is not effective, the study found that the immune system recognizes the drug as a foreign substance and creates antibodies to resist it, thus suppressing the drug’s effectiveness. The antibodies bind to the drug and thus keep it from functioning normally.
Dr. Gerrit Jan Wolbink says that the research indicates that Humira, as with many biologic agents, can cause an immune system response against itself. Wolbink is a rheumatologist at Jan van Breeman Research Institute in the Netherlands. She continues by saying that this immune system response can work against the patient, and that it is one explanation as to why some of the patients do not respond the way they expect. Patients who were taking Humira along with methotrexate, an immunosuppressant which is also sometimes used to treat arthritis, were not as likely to develop antibodies against Humira.
The study followed two hundred seventy-two patients who took the drug over the course of three years, and found that roughly twenty-eight percent developed an immune system reaction to the drug. In general, the reaction would begin to occur within a few months of treatment, with almost seventy percent of those who did develop an immune reaction doing so within the first twenty-eight weeks. Jan Wolbink explained that patients who did not develop antibodies to fight it would have higher levels of the drug present in their bloodstream, and that smaller amountsof the drug are indicative of the body’s immune system fighting it. The development of antibodies was found to be directly linked to patients that did not find relief or who found less relief from their arthritis pain.
Forty-eight percent of those involved in the study who did not develop antibodies, experienced a significant reduction in their arthritis symptoms while taking the drug, with only thirteen percent of those who did found similar relief. Thirty-four percent of those who did not develop antibodies experienced a remission, as opposed to only four percent of those who did develop antibodies. The study also found that patients who did develop antibodies were more likely to drop out because of a failure of treatment.