Remicade - Frequently Asked Questions
Professor Peter Taylor, BM, BCh, Reader in Experimental Rheumatology, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Imperial College London
Original article: 24/08/2004
Next review due: 14/02/2016
What is Remicade?
Remicade (also known as infliximab) is a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that works quickly to suppress inflammation caused by your immune system. This can help to relieve your symptoms and prevent your RA from progressing.
How does Remicade work?
In RA the body over produces a substance known as TNF-alpha. This is one of the causes of inflammation, and may lead to many of the symptoms of these conditions such as joint swelling, stiffness and discomfort. In RA, if inflammation is not suppressed, joint damage often results.
REMICADE is a “TNF-alpha antagonist”. This means that it works by neutralising TNF-alpha. This reduces inflammation and so can lessen the symptoms associated with RA. It can also help stop further joint damage.
How is Remicade different from other TNF-alpha antagonist treatments?
Unlike other anti-TNFs, which are given by self-administered injections, Remicade is given by a drip (IV infusion), which is administered by a healthcare professional.
Why has my doctor prescribed Remicade?
If you have severe active and progressive RA your doctor may prescribe Remicade to reduce the signs and symptoms of the disease and improve your physical function.
Remicade is usually prescribed in conjunction with methotrexate, a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD), as medical studies have shown that when both treatments are prescribed together the two more effectively relieve the signs and the symptoms of RA.
How will Remicade affect my symptoms?
Remicade often works rapidly and many patients begin to feel better as soon as 2 weeks after the first treatment. In general, you should feel the benefits of treatment within 12 weeks as inflammation in your joints reduces and the damage to your joints slows down. This makes everyday activities such as dressing, getting out of bed, eating, walking and washing easier to do.
Will there be any side-effects from Remicade?
Remicade has been used to treat over 1.3 million patients worldwide with inflammatory conditions such as RA and it has been tested in many medical trials. Like all medicines, Remicade can have side-effects but these are mostly mild to moderate such as rashes or headaches and do not cause any need for concern. Some patients may find they are more prone to infections while being treated with Remicade. This is because Remicade works by suppressing the immune system. If you think you might have developed an infection, you should consult your doctor and they will decide if antibiotics are required.
How do I take Remicade?
Remicade is a medicine that is given by IV infusion. This is a simple process, which takes place in hospital where you will be treated as an outpatient, or in some cases, in a doctor’s surgery. The process involves Remicade solution being infused via a drip into a vein in your arm over a two-hour period. After your first treatment you will be given the second infusion two weeks later and the third four weeks after that. But in most cases, for subsequent treatment with Remicade you only need an infusion once every eight weeks (just six times a year).
Most patients treated with Remicade are also treated with methotrexate, a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug taken once weekly.
Can anyone take Remicade?
Remicade is not suitable for people with moderate to severe heart failure, so prior to treatment you should discuss any heart conditions you may have with your doctor.
Can I take Remicade as well as other medications?
Remicade is easily incorporated into your treatment programme and it is unlikely that you should need to come off any other medications you are taking for other conditions. However, it is important that you let your doctor know about all the medications you take so they can determine what is best for you.
References available on request
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