Enbrel (Etanercept) Side Effects

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Enbrel (etanercept) is an injectable prescription medication used to treat many forms of arthritis, as well as plaque psoriasis. This medication helps relieve symptoms of arthritis by decreasing inflammation. Enbrel is typically injected weekly. While it can be effective, you should be aware of the side effects of this medication.

A woman is giving a man an injection in the arm. The woman is on the left of the photo, the man is to the right and wearing a short sleeve blue shirt.

Common Side Effects

Injection site reactions are the most common side effects of Enbrel. The reaction can involve redness, swelling, itching, bruising, pain, and/or bleeding. For most people, these reactions are so mild there is no need to stop taking this medication. In fact, for many people, this reaction will stop occurring after the first few injections.

Other common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Mild respiratory infections
  • Runny nose
  • Change in taste
  • Rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Low-grade fever (between 100 and 102 °F)

If you are experiencing any of these side effects and do not improve or find them bothersome, talk to your healthcare provider.

Serious Side Effects

Enbrel can cause serious side effects. You can be more predisposed to infections when taking Enbrel. Contact your doctor if you have signs of infection, such as a sore throat, cough, high fever, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain.

Some of the more serious side effects are:

  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • High fever (above 102 °F)
  • Depression
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Frequent or painful urination
  • Unusually stiff joints or muscles
  • Stomach pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Swelling in legs, ankles, or feet

While any side effects are concerning, the following side effects may be life-threatening, and urgent medical care is advised:

  • Chest tightness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Sudden vision change
  • Swelling of your face, throat, and eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

Go to the nearest emergency center or call 911 if you experience any of the above side effects.

Enbrel is associated with an increased risk of certain inflammatory conditions, including interstitial lung disease and multiple sclerosis. This medication is also associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, leukemia, skin cancer, and other types of cancers.

If there is a concern about a possible overdose, call the Poison Control Helpline at 1-800-222-1222. 

Warnings

Black Box Warning

This drug comes with a black box warning about the risk of tuberculosis (TB), which is the most serious warning designated by the FDA. Enbrel may reactivate a previous TB infection or make it easier to contract TB. 

Interactions

Enbrel can interact with vitamins, supplements, other medicine and can cause problems if you have certain underlying conditions. To avoid interactions, be sure to tell your doctor and your pharmacist about all medications, supplements, and vitamins you take.

The interactions listed below are the most common.

Previous History of TB

Since Enbrel can reactivate an otherwise dormant TB infection, you should tell your healthcare provider if you were exposed or have had a TB infection in the past.

Active Infection

If you have an active infection, Enbrel may increase your risk of developing a more severe illness. Talk with your doctor about how to handle your weekly dose if you develop an infection.

Immunizations

Ideally, you will have completed your vaccine series before starting Enbrel. However, if you have not, you should know it's important to avoid live vaccines. Common live vaccines include the chickenpox vaccine and the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)

According to the manufacturer, this medication should be used with caution if you have CHF— it can increase the risk of CHF, worsen CHF, and may increase the risk of death in people who have CHF.

Nursing Mothers

There is no definitive study regarding Enbrel passing through breast milk, and you and your doctor should discuss the pros and cons of taking this medication if you are breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

Talk to your doctor about any side effects you may be experiencing. If your side effects are bothersome or intolerable, your doctor might prescribe a different medication for you.

At Verywell, our goal is to provide you with accurate and relevant information. However, there is no guarantee all complications and interactions are listed. Always take time to speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions or concerns about taking any medication.

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  1. MedlinePlus. Etanercept injection. Updated July 15, 2018.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Highlights of prescribing information.