Olumiant side effects and how to avoid them
Olumiant is an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved brand-name medication manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company. It is classified as a Janus kinase inhibitor used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. While Olumiant is generally well tolerated, there are some potential side effects that people should be aware of. The most common side effects of Olumiant include nausea. Less common but more serious side effects can include an increase in the risk of infections.
Learn more about the side effects of Olumiant and what you can do to avoid them.
What is Olumiant (baricitinib)?
Olumiant contains the prescription medicine baricitinib. Olumiant is used to reduce the symptoms of severe rheumatoid arthritis, such as pain, stiffness, and joint swelling. It helps to reduce joint and bone damage from getting worse. Olumiant may also be used for the treatment of severe alopecia areata in adults. Olumiant is used where other medication has been tried and failed, or you can not tolerate the side effects of the other medication. Using Olumiant in combination with other JAK inhibitors, biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or immunosuppressants such as azathioprine and cyclosporine is not advised.
Baricitinib blocks the action of Janus kinase (JAK). JAKs are enzymes in cells that help to transmit signals that influence the formation of the components of blood cells and their function as immune cells. The signals originate on the cell membrane surface due to interactions between cytokine and growth-factor receptors. Within this signaling system, JAKs normally chemically activate STATs (signal transducers and activators of transcription), which control the activity of the cells. Baricitinib prevents JAKs from activating the STATs. The actual importance of this blocking of the JAK enzyme’s action in relation to baricitinib’s medicinal action is not fully understood.
Baricitinib affects your immune system, and you may be more prone to getting infections. Your doctor may want to check you do not have any infections, such as tuberculosis, before starting your treatment.
Olumiant is available in tablet form in the following doses: 1 mg, 2 mg, and 4 mg.
You are advised to read the medication guide provided with this medicine for the drug information and patient information, and always speak with your healthcare provider for medical advice about any changes to your dose so they can monitor and evaluate your condition.
How quickly does Olumiant work?
Olumiant may show improvements in symptoms within 7 days but may take up to 12 weeks.
Olumiant side effects
The most common possible side effects of Olumiant include:
- Symptoms of a cold – stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cold sores
In rare instances, Olumiant can cause more serious side effects. These can include:
- Serious infections (due to a reduced white blood cell count) such as tuberculosis, shingles (herpes zoster), and other bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Serious life-threatening allergic reactions such as hives, trouble breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Increased risk of lymphoma and other cancers, including skin cancers
- Fevers, chills, sweating
- Muscle pains, tiredness
- Skin sores
- Diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss
- Urinary tract infection – increased urination, pain or burning when urinating
- Shortness of breath, coughing up pink or red mucus
- Symptoms of a blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) – chest pain, coughing up blood, wheezing
- Symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (deep vein thrombosis) – swelling or redness in the arm or leg
- Sign of tear in stomach or intestines (gastrointestinal perforation) – change in bowel habits, ongoing stomach pain
If you experience any of these serious side effects, stop taking Olumiant 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.
Does baricitinib affect the liver?
Baricitinib may increase liver enzymes and can be a sign of liver damage. Those already having liver problems, such as hepatitis B may be at an increased risk of this side effect.
Does Olumiant cause weight gain?
Weight gain is not a side effect caused by Olumiant.
Does Olumiant cause high cholesterol?
Yes, Oluminant may cause an increase in triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol.
Is Olumiant a hazardous drug?
Olumiant tablets are not known to be hazardous. Tablets that are crushed to powder are also not known to be hazardous.
Olumiant drug interactions
Olumiant can interact with other medications, including:
- Treatment of auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis – abatacept, belatacept, etanercept
- Corticosteroids – betamethasone, cortisone, fludrocortisone, prednisolone
- Treatment for mood disorders such as schizophrenia – clozapine
- Immunosuppressants – cyclosporine, voclosporin
- Treatment for multiple sclerosis – fingolimod, ozanimod, siponimod
- Vaccines – BCG, measles, mumps, influenza, smallpox, typhoid, yellow fever, zoster
- DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) for rheumatoid arthritis – leflunomide, teriflunomide
- Treatments for cancer – nilotinib, ribociclib
- Strong OAT3 inhibitors (such as probenecid)
Before taking Olumiant, be sure to tell your doctor about all of the medications you are taking to ensure they are safe to take at the same time.
Olumiant warnings & precautions
You should not use Olumiant if you:
- Are allergic to the active ingredient baricitinib
- Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Olumiant
- Have any kind of infection
- Are breastfeeding or are planning to breastfeed – It is not known if Olumiant passes into breast milk
Talk to your doctor before using Olumiant if you:
- Are taking any of the medications that could interact with Olumiant
- Have or have had a chronic infection
- Are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant
- Have recently received or plan to receive a live vaccine
- Have liver or kidney disease
- Have hepatitis B or C
- Have any stomach or intestinal problems such as diverticulitis or an ulcer
- Have a tear or hole in your stomach or intestines
- Have a blood clot
- Have cancer
- Have low white or red blood cell counts
- Are scheduled to receive any vaccine
You should always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, including Olumiant, to make sure it is safe for you.
How to avoid Olumiant side effects
The best way to avoid side effects is to take Olumiant 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 Olumiant 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 Olumiant. 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
Avoid alcohol consumption to less than 14 units a week to reduce the risk of 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 for any cuts, sores, or redness regularly. Tell your doctor if you experience problems with your feet while taking Olumiant.
7. Know the signs and symptoms of Olumiant side effects
Signs and symptoms of side effects include flu-like symptoms. If you experience 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 Olumiant.
9. Get regular medical checkups
It is important to get regular medical checkups and monitor your medical conditions. Your doctor will monitor your condition and may adjust your dose of Olumiant 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.