All the biologic medications for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are given by injection. Adalimumab, anakinra, and etanercept are injected under the skin at home. Infliximab is injected into a vein, usually in a hospital or clinic. Even though the needles provided for self-injection are very small and often cause very little discomfort, the idea of giving yourself injections may make you feel uncomfortable.
Rita,* a 35-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), was prescribed a biologic medication by her rheumatologist. Although she was trained to give herself the injection, Rita still felt nervous when the time came to give herself her first injection at home. She wasn't sure she remembered exactly how to do it. She also had trouble bringing herself to put the needle into her skin. But then she called the toll-free help line provided with her medication. A registered nurse helped talk her through the steps of giving her first injection, and helped address her fears about self-injecting. She also set up a time to visit Rita at home to make sure she was comfortable with the procedure. Rita wanted a medication that didn't require very frequent injections and was convenient to use, so Rita's doctor selected a biologic that matched her personal preferences. Having overcome her fears, Rita now enjoys the freedom that comes from taking a medication she can give to herself at home.
Does Rita's story sound familiar? If you've got RA, it just might. Do you have questions about injecting your medication? You're not alone! Below are answers to some frequently asked questions.
How do I prepare the medication?
Two of the biologics, adalimumab and anakinra, are available in pre-filled syringes, ready for you to inject. You don't need to mix the medication yourself. Etanercept is a powder that comes in a vial and must be mixed with sterile water and drawn into a syringe to be injected. Your doctor, nurse, or other trained healthcare professional will teach you how to prepare the medication. The makers of etanercept have recently introduced a pre-filled syringe that may be preferred by some people with RA.
How do I use the medication?
If you are using adalimumab, anakinra, or etanercept, you will be trained to inject the medication under your skin at home. Follow the instructions provided by your doctor, nurse, or other health professional. Most medications come with a toll-free support line you can call if you have any questions. If you're taking infliximab, you will go to a hospital or clinic to receive your injection from a nurse or other trained health professional.
Where will I receive the medication?
Adalimumab, anakinra, and etanercept can all be given in your home. You, a friend, or a caregiver will be taught how to give the injection. Infliximab must be administered by a trained health professional, so it is usually given in either a hospital or a clinic. Ask your doctor about the location of the nearest hospital or clinic that can provide this service and their hours of operation. You may need to book an appointment ahead of time and arrange for some time off work to have your medication administered.
Will I have help if I need it?
Not sure exactly how to use your medication? Having trouble giving yourself the injection? Don't worry - help is nearby! Most biologic medications provide support programs to help you with injections. The support programs have toll-free help lines providing access to trained healthcare professionals to answer your questions. They may also provide home delivery of medications, access to trained nurses who will teach you how to inject the medication yourself, newsletters, and reminders to help you remember to take your medication. Your rheumatologist or a nurse can also help.
*Rita's story is a hypothetical story based on the experiences of other patients with rheumatoid arthritis who used injectable medications at home.
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