Enbrel is used to treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and to prevent joint damage caused by these conditions. It has also been used in the treatment of plaque psoriasis in adults and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children as young as two years old. Enbrel works by decreasing protein produced by the immune system that attacks the body’s own cells after mistaking them for invaders. It is classified as a Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha blocker (TNF-alpha blocker).
Enbrel has been linked to serious side effects and in 2008 the FDA required the manufacturer to strengthen the warning on the label to inform patients about the risk of contracting a fungal infection while using the drug. In a report analyzed by the FDA, 21 cases of fungal infection were reported after patients took Enbrel. Of those patients that were not treated immediately, 12 died. Along with infection, the FDA has also found links to tuberculosis and bacterial sepsis.
In 2011, the FDA also warned of increased risk of Legionella and Listeria, two serious types of infections. From 1999-2010, 80 cases of these infections were reported in patients who were taking the drug. 14 of those 80 patients died.
The FDA has also investigated reports that Enbrel could be the cause of Lymphoma and other cancers, especially in children and young adults. Because Enbrel is an immunosuppressant, it can leave the body more susceptible to serious diseases. In reports spanning over a 10-year period, there were 30 cases of children with cancer who had also taken TNF blockers. Some types of cancer that were found were lymphoma, leukemia, melanoma, and solid organ cancers.
Serious side effects may include:
- Fever, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness
- Feeling full after eating only a small amount
- Pain in your upper stomach that may spread to your shoulder
- Easy bruising or bleeding, pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate
- Nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Signs of infection (fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, confusion, neck stiffness, flu symptoms)
- Shortness of breath with swelling, rapid weight gain
- Chest pain, ongoing cough, coughing up mucus or blood
- Signs of skin infection such as itching, swelling, warmth, redness, or oozing
- Black, bloody, or tarry stools
- Changes in mood or personality (in children)
- Numbness, burning, pain, or tingly feeling
- Joint pain or swelling with fever, swollen glands, muscle aches, chest pain, unusual thoughts or behavior, and/or seizure (convulsions)
- Patchy skin color, red spots, or a butterfly-shaped skin rash over your cheeks and nose (worsens in sunlight)
Less serious Enbrel side effects may include
- Mild nausea, vomiting, mild diarrhea, mild stomach pain
- Runny or stuffy nose, cold symptoms