What is Adalimumab?

There is little point in reproducing the technical details of this monoclonal antibody because if you do understand such details, you’re in the minority. I certainly don’t. However, if you want to have a go at the biological and biochemical, I suggest you start with the Wikipedia article for Adalimumab or another reference of your own choosing.

For the rest of us simple folk, understanding what it is and why it works is much easier when you understand the nature of the relationships between the medical condition and function of the drug.

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is part of the body’s immune system. The purpose of the immune system is to fight illness and disease.

The primary role of TNF is to promote the inflammatory response. To use a practical example, when a traumatic injury such as a sprain, dislocation or fracture occurs, your body’s local inflammatory cells secrete a number of cytokines into the bloodstream. One of these cytokines is tumor necrosis factor-alpha ( TNF-α ). TNF-α produces the swelling you see in and around the site of the injury.

Now that you know that, it should come as no surprise to see why TNF is the #1 suspect bad guy with inflammatory-based clinical problems associated with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis, Crohn's disease, psoriasis, and refractory asthma.

These disorders are sometimes treated by using a TNF inhibitor. Adalimumab is one of several TNF inhibitors available. Specifically, adalimumab binds to TNFα, and in doing so it prevents the TNF receptors it from activating and firing.

The good:
The outcome results in less swelling and because you have reduced swelling you also have reduced pain and reduced damage to the affected joints.

The Bad: When I was given the study information pack before I commenced in the medical study, the section dedicated to risks associated with adalimumab ran 7 pages. This is not scary and is actually very good. It is good because there’s isn’t a time when disclosure and transparency are not important. What the figures and data revealed to me is that if you use adalimumab you will probably not die from it. Adalimumab does come with risks but the most notable is that adalimumab slightly increases the risk of developing infections. And you can see why this is the case given that that TNFα is also part of the immune system that protects the body from infection. So wash your hands more and apply sensible practical hygiene practises.

Adalimumab is sold under the brand name HUMIRA®. It is manufactured and marketed by Abbott Laboratories. Abbott Laboratories are the company developed the first HIV blood screening test in 1985. HUMIRA® is their flagship product. They are the sponsors of medical research into Adalimumab, including the study I am involved in.