Remicade and Humira are injectable monoclonal antibodies (a type of synthesized protein made from cells in a lab) in the class of medications called TNF blockers or TNF inhibitors. This class also includes:
In autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and the other conditions Remicade and Humira are approved to treat, the immune system mistakes the body’s own cells for foreign ones and attacks them, causing inflammation, pain, tissue destruction and other associated symptoms.
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. TNF alpha plays an important role in coordinating immune attacks on foreign invaders in the body, like viruses or bacteria. In the case of the disorders in question, the victims of the destruction initiated and controlled by TNF alpha are the body’s own tissues.
Remicade, Humira and the other members of the TNF inhibitor class are different types of protein molecules all designed to achieve the same goal: binding to the TNF alpha molecules to render them harmless, thereby reducing inflammation, whether it’s in the joints, skin, or bowels.
Neither Remicade nor Humira can cure any of the diseases for which they’re approved as treatment, but each medication can dramatically reduce the symptoms, such as joint pain. Furthermore, in rheumatoid arthritis, infliximab and adalimumab can slow damage to the joint. Because both of these biologically derived medications (biologic drugs) modify the course of the disease in addition to alleviating symptoms, they are known as “disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs” or DMARDs.
Sometimes, infliximab or adalimumab are used in conjunction with other DMARDs that work by different mechanisms, such as Methotrexate (Rheumatrex). Methotrexate is an antimetabolite that interferes with cell function rather than blocking a specific antibody as infliximab and adalimumab do.