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Etanercept is used either alone or in combination with other medicines to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It is also used to treat polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (arthritis in children and adolescents of no defined cause), psoriatic arthritis (arthritis that affect people having chronic skin disease called psoriasis), ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis that causes fusion of spinal and pelvic joints), in patients not responding to other medicines.

How it works

Etanercept a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug, belongs to a class of medications called TNF? inhibitor. It works by blocking the activity of a protein TNF?, thereby suppressing the function of white blood cells (macrophage and T-cell), reducing the inflammation in joints, and preventing new erosions.

Common side effects

Vomiting, Nausea, Cough, Headache, Heartburn, Injection site swelling, Injection site pain, Pain, Itching, Skin rash, Skin redness, Stomach pain, Weakness


Expert advice

  • Do not start etanercept if you have infection, history of recurrent infection, diabetes, allergic reaction, about to have surgery, had inflammation of liver (hepatitis B or C), multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis (inflammation of the nerves of the eyes) or transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), had congestive heart failure, lymphoma (a type of blood), alcohol abuse, have Wegener’s granulomatosis (disorder causing inflammation of blood vessels).
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you suffer from allergic reactions (dizziness, rash, chest tightness, or wheezing), see signs of tuberculosis (persistent cough, weight loss, listlessness, mild fever), blood disorders (persistent fever, bleeding, sore throat, bruising, or paleness), chicken pox, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, weight loss, or blood in the stool.
  • Make sure that your child has taken all vaccinations before taking etanercept. 
  • Take special precautions if you suffer from swallowing or breathing troubles, swelling of the face, hands, throat, or feet, feeling nervous or anxious, sudden reddening of the skin and/or a warm feeling, throbbing sensations, severe rash, itching, or hives (elevated patches of red or pale skin that often itch) after taking etanercept.
  • Etanercept is not recommended in children with all types of arthritis. Consult your doctor before giving etanercept.

Frequently asked questions


Q. Is etanercept a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug?
Yes, etanercept is a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug.
Q. Is etanercept a steroid or monoclonal antibody?
Etanercept is not a steroid or monoclonal antibody. It is a recombinant human protein and TNF inhibitor.
Q. Is etanercept safe?
Etanercept is safe if used at prescribed doses for the prescribed duration as advised by your doctor.
Q. Does etanercept cause weight gain or hair loss?
Etanercept can cause weight gain and hair loss.
Q. How long does etanercept take to work?
Etanercept can start action in few days but usually it takes around 2-12 weeks to work for complete action.

Content on this page was last updated on 14 October, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)