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Etanercept (Enbrel®)

Etanercept is used alone or with other medications to relieve the symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders (conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy parts of the body and causes pain, swelling, and damage) including:

  • rheumatoid arthritis (condition in which the body attacks its own joints, causing pain, swelling, and loss of function)
  • psoriatic arthritis (condition that causes joint pain and swelling and scales on the skin)
  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA; a condition that affects children in which the body attacks its own joints, causing pain, swelling, loss of function, and delays in growth and development)
  • ankylosing spondylitis (a condition in which the body attacks the joints of the spine and other areas causing pain and joint damage),
  • chronic plaque psoriasis (a skin disease in which red, scaly patches form on some areas of the body)

Etanercept is in a class of medications called tumor-necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. It works by blocking the action of TNF, a substance in the body that causes inflammation

How should etanercept be used?

Etanercept injection comes as a solution (liquid) in a prefilled syringe and an automatic injection device, and as a powder to be mixed with a provided liquid. Etanercept is injected subcutaneously (under the skin). It is usually injected once a week. When etanercept injection is used to treat chronic plaque psoriasis, it may be injected twice a week during the first 3 months of treatment and then once a week after the first 3 months. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Use etanercept exactly as directed. Do not use more or less of it or use it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

You will receive your first dose of etanercept injection in a doctor's office. After that, you can inject the medication yourself at home or have a friend or relative perform the injections. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you or the person who will be performing the injections how to inject etanercept. Read the written instructions that come with etanercept injection before you inject the medication.

Vials of etanercept injection may contain enough medication for more than one dose. If there is enough medication left in the vial for a complete dose, place the vial in the refrigerator as soon as possible, but no later than 4 hours after you mix it. You may store the vial of etanercept injection for up to 14 days after you mix it if there is enough medication remaining for a complete dose. However, you should not combine the contents of two or more vials of etanercept injection to make a complete dose. You also should not mix any other medications with etanercept injection.

If your medication comes in a prefilled syringe or automatic injection device, use each syringe or device only once and inject all the solution in the syringe or device. Even if there is still some solution left in the syringe or device, do not use it again. Dispose of used needles, syringes, and devices in a puncture-resistant container. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to dispose of the puncture-resistant container.

If you are using a prefilled syringe, an automatic injection device, or a vial that has been refrigerated, place the syringe, device, or vial on a flat surface and allow it warm to room temperature for 15-30 minutes before you are ready to inject the medication. Do not try to warm the medication by heating it in a microwave, placing it in hot water, or through any other method.

Do not shake a syringe, automatic injection device, or vial that contains etanercept. Be careful not to drop the device onto a hard surface because this may damage the device, syringe, or needle.

Always look at etanercept solution before injecting it. Check that the expiration date has not passed and that the liquid is clear and colorless. The liquid may contain small white particles, but should not contain large or colored particles. Do not use a syringe or dosing pen if it is cracked or broken, if it is expired, or if the liquid is cloudy or contains large or colored particles.

The best place to inject etanercept injection is the front of your middle thighs. You can also inject the medication in your lower stomach below your navel, except the area 2 inches (5 centimeters) around your navel. If someone else is giving you the injection, that person can also inject the medication into your upper arms. If etanercept is injected into the upper arms or stomach, the skin in the area must be stretched to create a firm surface for the injection. Choose a different site for each injection. Do not inject into an area where the skin is tender, bruised, red, hard, or where there are scars or stretch marks. If you have psoriasis, do not inject into skin that is red, thick, raised, or scaly.

Etanercept injection may help control your condition but will not cure it. Continue to use etanercept injection even if you feel well. Do not stop using etanercept without talking to your doctor.

Take etanercept exactly as directed by your doctor.

Read the medication guide that you receive with the medication for a complete list of possible side effects.

Speak with your doctor if you are concerned about possible side effects that you may be experiencing.


Last updated: November 2017.

Reference: National Institutes of Health