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Stelara vs Humira

Drug facts and comparison

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Medically reviewed by  Jamie Winn, PharmD

Uses

  • Moderate to severely active Crohn’s disease in adults
  • Moderate to severely active ulcerative colitis in adults
  • Moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in adults and children over 6 years of age
  • Active psoriatic arthritis in adults
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  • Moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults
  • Moderate to severe active polyarticular (affecting multiple joints) juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children aged two years and older
  • Moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis in adults
  • Active psoriatic arthritis in adults
  • Active ankylosing spondylitis in adults
  • Moderate to severe active ulcerative colitis in adults
  • Moderate to severely active Crohn’s Disease in adults and children aged six years and older
  • Moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) in adults and children aged 12 years and older
  • Uveitis in adults and children aged two years and older
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Summary

Brand name: Stelara
Brand name: Humira
Manufacturer: Janssen Biotech, Inc.
Manufacturer: Abbvie Inc.
Active ingredient: ustekinumab
Active ingredient: adalimumab
Indication: Moderate to severely active Crohn's disease in adults Moderate to severely active ulcerative colitis in adults Moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in adults and children over 6 years of age Active psoriatic arthritis in adults
Indication: Moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults Moderate to severe active polyarticular (affecting multiple joints) juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children aged two years and older Moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis in adults Active psoriatic arthritis in adults Active ankylosing spondylitis in adults Moderate to severe active ulcerative colitis in adults Moderate to severely active Crohn’s Disease in adults and children aged six years and older Moderate to severe hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) in adults and children aged 12 years and older Uveitis in adults and children aged two years and older
Frequency of injection: Weeks 0 and 4, then every 12 weeks thereafter
Frequency of injection: Once every 2 weeks
Duration of action: Weeks 0 and 4, then every 12 weeks thereafter
Duration of action: Once every 2 weeks
Injection method: Subcutaneous injection
Injection method: Subcutaneous injection

Side Effects

Most common

  • Headaches
  • Sore throats
  • Sinus infections
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Redness and pain where the injection is given
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain in your back, muscles, and joints

More serious

  • Allergic reactions to the medication
  • Inflammation of the lungs
  • Redness and loose skin over large areas of your body (erythrodermic psoriasis or exfoliative dermatitis)

Most common

  • Injection site reactions
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Musculoskeletal pain (pain in bones, joints, and nerves)
  • Upper respiratory infections, including sinus infections

More serious

  • Serious allergic reactions to the medication
  • Serious infections, including tuberculosis and sepsis
  • Activation of a hepatitis B infection in people who carry the hepatitis B virus
  • Heart failure or worsening heart failure
  • Liver problems and liver failure

Drug Interactions

Severe interactions
  • DMARDs – leflunomide, teriflunomide
  • Immunosuppressants – fingolimod, siponimod
  • Vaccines – BCG, measles, mumps, poliovirus, rubella, smallpox, yellow fever
Serious interactions
  • Corticosteroids – betamethasone, cortisone, dexamethasone
  • Calcium channel blockers – amlodipine, felodipine, nifedipine
  • Anticonvulsants – carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin
  • Statins – atorvastatin, simvastatin
  • Benzodiazepines – clonazepam, diazepam, triazolam
Moderate interactions
  • Zinc preparations – zinc acetate, zinc chloride, zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate
Severe interactions
  • Immunomodulators – abatacept
  • Corticosteroids – betamethasone, cortisone, dexamethasone
  • Antisphychotics – clozapine
  • Immunosuppressants – fingolimod, ozanimod, siponimod
  • DMARDs – leflunomide, teriflunomide
Serious interactions
  • Statins – atorvastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin
  • Anticonvulsants – carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin
  • Benzodiazepines – clonazepam, diazepam, triazolam
  • Calcium channel blockers – amlodipine, felodipine, nifedipine
  • Opioids – hydrocodone, oxycodone
Moderate interactions
  • Zinc preparations – zinc acetate, zinc chloride, zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate

Warnings

You should not use Stelara if you:

  • Are allergic to the active ingredient ustekinumab
  • Are allergic to any of the other ingredients in Stelara
  • Have an active infection
  • Are under 12 years of age

You should talk to your doctor before using Stelara if you:

  • Have ever had any type of cancer
  • Have had a recent infection
  • Have any new or changing lesions within psoriasis areas or on normal skin
  • Have an allergy to latex (the container of the product contains latex)
  • Are currently having another treatment for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis
  • Are currently having, or have had, injections to treat allergies
  • Are over 65 years of age
  • Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed

You should not use Humira if you:

  • Are allergic to the active ingredient adalimumab
  • Are allergic to any of the other ingredients found in Humira
  • Have active tuberculosis or another severe infection
  • Have moderate or severe heart failure
  • Are taking a medication with the active ingredients anakinra or abatacept
  • Are pregnant, but you may be able to breastfeed while taking it

You should talk to your doctor before using Humira if you:

  • Are over 65, as Humira can make it more likely you will get infections
  • Have an infection, or a condition that makes it easier for you to get infections
  • Have infections that keep coming back
  • Have ever had tuberculosis, or if you’ve been in close contact with someone with tuberculosis
  • Have or have had cancer
  • Have traveled to regions where fungal infections are common
  • Have had mild heart failure, or another serious heart condition
  • Have a demyelinating disease, like multiple sclerosis
  • Have the hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • Are about to have surgery or a dental procedure
  • Are about to have a vaccination

Dosage

Weight dependent dose on weeks 0 and 4, then every 12 weeks thereafter.

10 mg, 20 mg, or 40 mg every other week.

Cost

Stelara subcutaneous solution (45 mg/0.5 mL) will cost around $13,300 for 0.5 milliliters.

Humira subcutaneous kit (40 mg/0.8 mL) will cost around $6,700 for 2 kits.

 

FAQs

Has your doctor spoken to you about Stelara or Humira? Do you want to find out more? Stelara and Humira are injectable prescription-only biologic therapies used to treat a range of inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and non-autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease. There are many treatment options available for these conditions, the best treatment will be based on your condition, overall health, past or current treatments, and medical history. Stelara and Humira are similar drugs but aren’t in the same exact drug class. Read on to learn more about how these drugs compare.

What is Humira?

Humira is an immunosuppressant medication classed as a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor or an anti-TNF, containing the active ingredient adalimumab.

Humira is approved by the FDA to treat the following inflammatory autoimmune diseases:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis in adults
  • Active psoriatic arthritis in adults
  • Ankylosing spondylitis in adults
  • Moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in patients who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy in adults
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children aged 2 years and older

Humira is also approved to treat similar non-autoimmune inflammatory diseases:

  • Crohn’s Disease in adults and children aged 6 years and older
  • Ulcerative colitis in adults in adults and children aged 2 years and older
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa in adults and children aged 12 years and older

What is Stelara?

Stelara is classed as an immunosuppressant that’s used to weaken part of your immune system. It is specifically an interleukin-12 and interleukin-23 inhibitor drug containing the active ingredient ustekinumab. It is FDA approved to treat inflammatory diseases such as:

  • Moderate to severely active Crohn’s disease in adults
  • Moderate to severely active ulcerative colitis in adults
  • Moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in adults and children 6 years of age and older
  • Active psoriatic arthritis in adults

How does Humira work?

Both drugs work as monoclonal antibodies but in slightly different ways.

Humira works specifically as a TNF blocker, to treat inflammation. TNF alpha (tumor necrosis factor-alpha) is one of a number of different antibodies produced by white blood cells and other parts of the immune system.

Your immune system releases a protein called TNF-alpha in your body to trigger inflammation. Humira injected into your body helps reduce inflammation by attaching to TNF-alpha and stopping it from working and limiting the amount of inflammation your immune system can cause.

How does Stelara work?

Stelara works specifically by targeting two proteins in the body, interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-23 (IL-23). In people with psoriatic arthritis or Crohn’s disease, the body produces too much IL-12 and IL-23, causing excess inflammation when it is not needed. Stelara works by attaching to the proteins and blocking their activity. By reducing inflammation, Stelara can provide relief from the symptoms of inflammatory diseases. It can also limit the damage caused and stop flare-ups from happening.

How do you take Stelara and Humira?

You are given Stelara and Humira by subcutaneous injection (injecting it under your skin) using either a pre-filled syringe or an injectable pen. It is important to use a new needle each time to prevent the risk of infection. You may get injection site reactions such as redness, bruising, or irritation after administration, but this will settle down after a few hours. Your pharmacist or other healthcare providers can teach you how to give injections at home.

If you are prescribed Stelara to treat Crohn’s Disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you will receive your first dose as an hour-long intravenous infusion in a medical setting by a healthcare professional. Your next doses will all be subcutaneous injections.

How effective are Stelara and Humira?

The first head-to-head clinical trial of biologics in patients with moderate-to-severe Crohn’s disease was carried out with Stelara and Humira by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of Stelara. It was called the SEAVUE (Safety and Efficacy of Adalimumab Versus Ustekinumab for One Year) study, looking at patients who had never taken a biologic over the course of 52 weeks. The primary endpoint was clinical remission at 52 weeks, which 65% of patients treated with ustekinumab and 61% of patients treated with adalimumab achieved. One of the secondary endpoints was corticosteroid-free remission, which 61% of patients on Stelara achieved versus 57.4% of Humira patients.

Both medications work well for patients but the rates of clinical response after a year were not statistically significantly different between treatment groups. It is important to take your healthcare provider’s opinion in this regard. Your doctor knows what is best for you and will prescribe you one or the other based on your health condition.

What are the side effects of Stelara and Humira?

In clinical studies, the most common side effects of Stelara and Humira were

  • Upper respiratory infections e.g sinus infection
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint pain
  • Injection site reactions

Other common side effects mainly with Stelara

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vaginal yeast infections

Other common side effects mainly with Humira

Serious side effects include:

  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Allergic reactions
  • Serious infections

This is not a complete list and medical advice should be taken from your healthcare provider. Always inform your doctor of medicines you use, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal products, and supplements.

Can Stelara and Humira be used together?

No. Even though biologic drugs aren’t prescribed together, sometimes doctors prescribe biologic drugs with traditional biologic drugs such as methotrexate. Methotrexate is an older, less targeted drug that is used to reduce inflammation in your body.

What are the alternatives to Stelara and Humira?

Your healthcare provider has many biologic drugs available to prescribe such as Simponi (golimumab), Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), Enbrel (etanercept), Orencia (abatacept), Kineret (anakinra), Entyvio (vedolizumab), and Remicade (infliximab).

Can Stelara be used in children?

Stelara is used to treat moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in children aged 6 years and older. For this use, a child must be able to have phototherapy or systemic treatments to help their condition.

Can vaccines be taken when taking Stelara or Humira?

No. If you are taking Stelara or Humira you are advised to avoid live vaccines because they can make you more at risk of infection. Stelara and Humira dampen down your immune system, therefore, making you more prone to infection.

The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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