Cimzia side effects and how to avoid them
Cimzia is an FDA-approved brand-name medication manufactured by UCB, Inc. It is a biologic drug classed as a tumor necrosis factor blocker or anti-TNFs and is used to treat autoimmune diseases. While Cimzia is generally well tolerated, there are some potential side effects that people should be aware of. The most common side effects of Cimzia include upper respiratory tract infections. Less common but more serious side effects can include serious allergic reactions.
Learn more about the side effects of Cimzia and what you can do to avoid them.
What is Cimzia (certolizumab pegol)?
Cimzia is used to treat a range of inflammatory autoimmune diseases in adults, including:
- Moderate to severe Crohn’s disease
- Moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis
- Moderate to severe plaque psoriasis
- Active psoriatic arthritis (PsA)
- Active non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis with inflammation
- Active ankylosing spondylitis
Cimzia works as a monoclonal antibody and, more specifically, as a TNF blocker, to treat inflammation. TNF alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) is one of several antibodies produced by white blood cells and other parts of the immune system.
Once Cimzia is injected into your body, its active ingredient helps reduce inflammation. Your immune system releases a protein in your body to trigger inflammation called TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha). The active ingredient in Cimzia attaches to TNF-alpha and stops it from working. This limits the amount of inflammation your immune system can cause.
By reducing inflammation, Cimzia can provide relief from the symptoms of inflammatory diseases. It can also limit the damage caused by inflammatory diseases and can stop flare-ups from happening.
What are the most common side effects of Cimzia?
The most common possible side effects of Cimzia include:
- Injection site reactions
- Urinary tract infections
- Upper respiratory infections
- Abdominal pain
- Sinus infection
- Joint pain
Serious side effects include:
- Suppression of the immune system
- Increased risk of cancer, particularly lymphoma and skin cancer
- New or worsening heart failure
- New or worsening psoriasis
- Eye disorders such as optic neuritis, uveitis, and retinal hemorrhage
- Serious allergic reactions – hives, trouble breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Serious infections – fever, sore throat, cough, night sweats, shortness of breath, painful urination, unusual vaginal discharge, oral thrush
- Lupus-like syndrome (pain and inflammation in the body)
- Reactivation of a hepatitis B virus
If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop taking Cimzia and seek medical attention immediately. You are encouraged to report the negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
How long do Cimzia side effects last?
Cimzia’s side effects may last a few days to weeks. If side effects last longer or become more severe, speak with your doctor for medical advice.
Does Cimzia cause hair loss?
Hair loss is seen in some patients who have an immune system flare-up while being treated with Cimzia. Hair loss is a complete loss of hair on the head, known as alopecia totalis.
Does Cimzia affect your eyes?
Cimzia may cause eye problems such as optic neuritis, uveitis, and retinal hemorrhage.
Does Cimzia cause fatigue?
Cimzia may cause tiredness. For those taking Cimzia for rheumatoid arthritis, tiredness affected around 3% of people taking Cimzia with methotrexate.
Does Cimzia make cause weight gain?
No, Cimzia does not cause weight gain or weight loss. Speak to a healthcare professional if you experience any changes in weight while taking Cimzia.
What does Cimzia do to the body?
Cimzia helps to reduce symptoms such as joint swelling, pain, morning stiffness, and tiredness.
Cimzia is available for injection as 200 mg lyophilized powder in a single-dose vial and 200 mg/mL solution in a single-dose prefilled syringe.
You take Cimzia by injecting it under your skin subcutaneously, either in a pre-filled syringe yourself or by injections administered by your healthcare provider. The dose of Cimzia and how many injections you need will be decided upon by your prescribing doctor based on your condition and medical history.
You are advised to read the medication guide provided with this medicine for drug information and patient information. Always speak with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any changes to your dose so they can monitor and evaluate your condition.
Cimzia drug interactions
Cimzia can interact with other medications, including:
- Live vaccines
Other medical conditions may affect your treatment with Cimzia, so you should always seek medical advice from the healthcare professional prescribing your drugs. The drug information provided is intended for reference only and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Cimzia warnings & precautions
Don’t take Cimzia if:
- Are allergic to the active ingredient certolizumab pegol
- Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Cimzia
- Are under 18 years of age
Talk to your doctor before taking Cimzia if you:
- Have or have ever had congestive heart failure
- Have or have ever had any kind of blood disorder
- Have or have ever had any condition that affects your nervous system, like multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Often get infections, or have infections that keep coming back
- Have or have ever had hepatitis B
- Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed
You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Cimzia, to ensure it is safe.
Is Cimzia a high-risk medication?
Cimzia may increase the risk for certain types of cancers. Children and young adults may also be at a higher risk of developing lymphoma (lymph node cancer).
Cimzia also has an increased risk of causing serious infections such as tuberculosis, invasive fungal infections, and bacterial sepsis, which may lead to hospitalization or death.
What are the risks of Cimzia?
Cimzia may cause problems with the nervous system, such as optic neuritis, multiple sclerosis, and peripheral neuropathy. Or it may make these conditions worse.
How to avoid Cimzia side effects
The best way to avoid side effects is to take Cimzia as directed by your doctor. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, and do not take more or less than prescribed.
If you experience any side effects, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They may be able to recommend ways to help reduce or prevent some of the side effects.
1. Stick to the recommended dosage
Take your prescribed dose of Cimzia that has been recommended by your healthcare professional. Do not take more or less than prescribed.
2. Monitor your blood sugar levels
If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar levels closely while taking Cimzia. Check your blood sugar levels as directed by your doctor and report any changes to your doctor immediately.
3. Drink plenty of fluids
Drink eight to 10 glasses of water or fluids every day to help prevent dehydration, which can make side effects worse.
4. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol is safe to consume when you are taking Cimzia. However, Cimzia is often taken with methotrexate which, if taken with alcohol, may cause further liver damage.
5. Don’t skip meals
Eating regular meals and snacks will help to prevent low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).
6. Check your feet
If you have diabetes, check your feet regularly for any cuts, sores, or redness. Tell your doctor if you experience any problems with your feet while taking Cimzia.
7. Know the signs and symptoms of Cimzia side effects
Signs and symptoms of side effects include urinary and respiratory infections. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor for medical advice.
8. Tell your doctor about all medications you’re taking
Be sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements, as they can interact with Cimzia.
9. Get regular medical check ups
It is important to get regular medical check ups and monitor your medical conditions. Your doctor will monitor your side effects and may adjust your dose of Cimzia as needed.
A medical professional has reviewed this article.
Dr. Jamie Winn received his Doctor of Pharmacy in 2002 from the University of South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Columbia, SC. Jamie is a medical reviewer for NiceRx.