Anti TNF: What is it and What you need to Know

Read Time: 8 minute(s)


What is Anti TNF?

Anti TNF, also known as anti tumor necrosis factor, describes a class of medication that has revolutionized the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases. These conditions, characterized by an overactive immune response, lead to chronic inflammation and tissue damage.

TNF inhibitors target a specific substance in the body’s immune system called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), which plays a critical role in promoting inflammation.

Available TNF inhibitors include:

  1. Adalimumab (Humira)
  2. Certolizumab (Cimzia)
  3. Etanercept (Enbrel)
  4. Golimumab (Simponi)
  5. Infliximab (Remicade)

These medications help reduce the painful symptoms and slow the progression of diseases by blocking the action of TNF-α. This article delves into how anti TNF agents work, what conditions they are used to treat, and potential side effects. Essential information on administration, precautions, and management of side effects is also provided to equip readers with a thorough understanding of these powerful drugs.

Conditions Treated with Anti TNF Medication

TNF inhibitors have revolutionized the treatment of several autoimmune diseases. One such condition is Ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the spine, leading to chronic pain and stiffness. TNF inhibitors, by reducing inflammation, help alleviate these symptoms.

The second condition often managed with TNF inhibitors is Crohn’s disease. This chronic inflammatory bowel disease affects the digestive tract and can cause severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. TNF inhibitors can reduce these symptoms by controlling inflammation.

Another condition, Hidradenitis suppurativa, a painful, long-term skin condition that causes abscesses and scarring on the skin, has also been effectively managed using TNF inhibitors.

These are just a few examples of the conditions treated with TNF inhibitors. Each patient’s case is unique and treatment plans should always be discussed with a healthcare provider.

How to Take/Use Anti TNF Medication

TNF inhibitors are administered either through subcutaneous injections or intravenous infusions, depending on the specific medication prescribed.

Subcutaneous Injections

Medications like Adalimumab and Etanercept are typically self-injected into the fatty tissue just under the skin. Patients receive training on how to inject themselves correctly and safely.

Intravenous Infusions

Medications such as Infliximab require administration in a healthcare setting, where a healthcare professional will oversee the infusion process.

Dosage frequency varies, ranging from once every two weeks to once every eight weeks. It is crucial for patients to follow their healthcare provider’s instructions regarding dosing schedules and techniques to ensure effectiveness and minimize risks.

What should I do if I forget to take/use Anti TNF Medication?

If you happen to miss a dose of your TNF inhibitor, it’s crucial not to panic. The best course of action can vary depending on how long it has been since the missed dose. If it’s only been a few hours, you can generally still take the medication. However, if it’s close to the time for your next dose, skip the missed one and continue with your regular dosing schedule.

Do not double up doses to make up for a missed one. This could potentially lead to an overdose and trigger unwanted side effects.

If you’re unsure about what to do, always reach out to your healthcare provider for guidance. They can provide you with specific instructions tailored to your treatment plan and health condition.

What Precautions should I take?

When starting TNF inhibitor therapy, it’s critical to understand the balance between its potential benefits in reducing inflammation and the associated risks. This class of medications can increase susceptibility to infections due to their immunosuppressive effects. Therefore, taking certain precautions is necessary:

  • Consult with Healthcare Providers: Before initiating treatment, discuss your complete medical history with healthcare professionals. This includes any current or past infections and the use of medications like corticosteroids.

  • Regular Monitoring: Undergo regular check-ups to monitor for side effects and ensure the medication’s efficacy.

  • Vaccinations: Stay up-to-date with vaccinations, but avoid live vaccines as they can pose risks while on TNF inhibitors.

  • Infection Awareness: Be vigilant about signs of infection such as fever, fatigue, or coughs, and seek medical attention promptly if they occur.

  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Adopt healthy lifestyle practices to bolster your immune system, like a balanced diet and adequate sleep.

Each individual may respond differently to TNF inhibitors, making personalized treatment decisions paramount. It is essential to tailor precautions and considerations to your specific health needs under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

What are some common side-effects of Anti TNF Medication?

TNF inhibitors, while effective, can cause side-effects. Common ones include:

  • Injection site reactions: Redness, itching, or swelling may occur at the site of injection.

  • Respiratory infections: These drugs can affect your immune system, increasing the risk of infections like tuberculosis (TB), bacterial sepsis, invasive fungal infections (such as histoplasmosis), and other opportunistic infections.

  • Gastrointestinal problems: Nausea, stomach pain, indigestion or a feeling of being full after eating small amounts of food can take place.

  • Headaches and dizziness: Some patients report experiencing headaches and dizziness.

Remember to consult your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms persistently or if they worsen over time.

What Food or Medication should I avoid when I take Anti TNF Medication?

When taking TNF inhibitors, it’s crucial to understand that certain foods, medications, and substances may interfere with the effectiveness of your treatment. Here are some things to avoid:

  • Alcohol – Excessive alcohol consumption can potentially increase the risk of hepatotoxicity (liver damage) associated with some TNF inhibitors.

  • Live Vaccines – Patients on TNF inhibitors should not receive live vaccines as these drugs can suppress the immune system, causing potential adverse reactions.

  • Certain Medications – Some drugs like warfarin, cyclosporine, or digoxin can interact negatively with TNF inhibitors. Always inform your healthcare provider about any medication you’re currently taking.

Consideration of these factors forms an important part of managing your condition and ensuring optimal treatment outcomes while minimizing potential risks.

What are some rare but serious Side Effects that I need to seek medical advice immediately?

While TNF inhibitors are effective for many patients, they can also lead to rare but severe side effects that require immediate medical attention. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away:

  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of heart failure.

  • Neurological changes, including vision problems, weakness in the arms or legs, and numbness or tingling—potential indicators of multiple sclerosis-like conditions.

  • Severe rash, skin peeling, or sores in the mouth suggestive of serious allergic reactions.

  • Persistent fever, bruising, bleeding, or paleness which could signal blood disorders.

  • Unusual swelling, discomfort in the abdomen, or jaundice that may point to liver issues.

These adverse reactions are not exhaustive and underscore why regular monitoring by a healthcare professional is vital during TNF inhibitor therapy.

To minimize common side effects:

  • Apply a cold pack to the injection site before administering to reduce reactions.

  • Eat smaller, frequent meals to manage gastrointestinal symptoms.

  • Practice good hygiene and steer clear from sick individuals to prevent respiratory infections.

How Should I Store This Medication?

Proper storage of TNF inhibitors is essential to maintain their effectiveness. Follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature: Store these medications in a refrigerator between 2°C to 8°C (36°F to 46°F).

  • Avoid Extreme Conditions: Do not freeze them or expose them to high temperatures and direct sunlight.

  • When traveling, transport these medications with a cold pack inside an insulated bag.

  • It’s crucial to check the medication upon arrival; if it has become warm or frozen, it may not work as intended and should not be used.

Remember to always keep these medications out of reach of children and pets. Contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist for detailed storage instructions specific to your medication.

How to Dispose of Medication Safely

Properly disposing of TNF inhibitors is crucial to prevent harm to others and the environment. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Check the medication guide or patient information that comes with the medication for specific disposal instructions.
  2. Never flush medications down the toilet unless the information specifically instructs you to do so.
  3. Use take-back programs available in your area, which allow the public to bring unused drugs to a central location for proper disposal.
  4. If no take-back program is available, follow these steps:
    • Place the medication in a sealable bag.
    • If pills or liquids, add water to dissolve them.
    • Mix with an unpalatable substance like dirt or cat litter.
    • Seal the bag tightly.
    • Put it in your household trash.
  5. Remove all personal information on prescription labels of empty medicine packaging to protect your privacy.

By following these guidelines, you are:

  • Contributing to a safer community
  • Ensuring that treatment remains effective and responsible


Understanding how TNF inhibitor therapy works and its potential benefits and risks is crucial for making informed decisions about your treatment options. It’s important to have open and honest discussions with your healthcare provider, asking any questions or expressing any concerns you may have.

Your healthcare provider is there to support you and provide guidance throughout your treatment journey. Together, you can work towards finding the most suitable treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals.

If you’re considering TNF inhibitor therapy or have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted family clinic. They can offer expert advice and personalized care based on your individual circumstances.

By being proactive in managing your health and seeking the right support, you can take control of your condition and improve your overall well-being.

Read More: Sevelamer: What is it and What you need to Know

Picture of MMC Writing Team

MMC Writing Team

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. We hope that we can provide you with information to stay healthy.

Picture of MMC Writing Team

MMC Writing Team

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. We hope that we can provide you with information to stay healthy.

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