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Is Humira an immunosuppressant?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on May 23, 2022.

Official answer


Key Points

  • Humira (adalimumab) is an immunosuppressant medicine and can lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections or make an infection worse. It may increase your risk of bacterial, fungal, or viral infections that may spread throughout the body. Some infections have been deadly.
  • Humira is classified as a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker and reduces the effects of a substance in the body that causes inflammation.
  • There have also been reports of some types of cancer in children, teenagers, and adults, but it is not known if the immunosuppressant effects of Humira are responsible.
  • If you currently have an infection or cancer, a history of these conditions, or are being treated for these conditions, you should tell your doctor before starting treatment with Humira.

Lymphoma and other cancers, some of which have been deadly, have been reported in children treated with TNF blockers including Humira. It is not known if these cancers are the result of a TNF blocker like Humira or a TNF blocker used in combination with other immunosuppressants. People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), especially more serious RA, may have a higher chance for getting lymphoma.

You should not start taking Humira if you have any kind of infection unless your doctor says it is okay. Tell your doctor if you think you have an infection before or after starting Humira. Tell your doctor if you have an infection or if you keep getting infections.

Symptoms of an infection may include:

  • fever
  • sweats or chills
  • muscle aches
  • cough
  • warm, painful or red skin or sores on your body
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain or cramping
  • trouble breathing
  • blood in phlegm
  • burning or stinging when you urinate
  • urinating more often than normal
  • feeling very tired
  • vomiting
  • weight loss

Tuberculosis (TB): TB is a bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs. Before starting treatment with Humira, tell your doctor if you have tuberculosis (TB), have been in close contact with someone with TB, or have traveled to countries where there is more risk for getting TB. Symptoms of TB may include a cough, fever, or weight loss.

Fungal infections: Before you start treatment with Humira, tell your doctor if you live or have lived in certain parts of the country (such as the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys where there is a greater risk for certain kinds of fungal infections.

Hepatitis B infections: Humira may lead to reactivation of hepatitis B virus infections if you are a carrier of this virus. In some circumstances, this can be serious or deadly. Your doctor will determine if you are at risk for hepatitis B infection or if you need an antiviral medication to treat hepatitis B infection.

To help protect you from some types of infections you should receive certain vaccines. You should avoid live vaccines. Speak with your doctor about which vaccines you should get before you start Humira.

Your doctor may decide to stop your treatment with Humira if you are being treated for an infection. Do not stop using Humira unless your doctor tells you to.

Be sure to tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of your health conditions and all of the medicines you take, including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbals or other dietary supplements.

How do immunosuppressants work?

Immunosuppressants work by preventing your immune system from attacking healthy tissues and cells. Normally, the immune system helps to fight infections and other diseases, but sometimes it targets healthy cells in error, causing inflammation, pain and and other symptoms. Immunosuppressant medicines are often used in these types of diseases.

Humira is approved by the FDA to treat:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
  • Crohn's disease
  • Plaque psoriasis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa
  • Uveitis

Humira will not cure these diseases but can help to relieve your symptoms and control your disease worsening.

This is not all the information you need to know about Humira (adalimumab) for safe and effective use and does not take the place of your doctor’s directions. Review the full Humira information and discuss this information and any questions you have with your doctor or other health care provider.


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