Apremilast

Drug Name
Apremilast

Brand Name(s)
Otezla®

Drug Class
Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug (DMARD)

Apremilast is used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as psoriatic arthritis.

  • What types of arthritis are apremilast used for?

    Apremilast is used to treat psoriatic arthritis.

    For treatment of psoriatic arthritis, apremilast may be used as alone or in combination with methotrexate (MTX) if there has been an inadequate response or intolerance to a prior DMARD treatment.

  • How is apremilast administered?

    Apremilast is taken orally in pill form.

  • What is the typical dose and when do I take it?

    Apremilast is available in 10, 20 and 30 mg tablets.

    The recommended dose is 30 mg twice daily; once in the morning and once in the evening.  The tablets can be taken with or without food, but must be swallowed whole and not be crushed, split or chewed.

    When you begin taking apremilast the dose needs to be increased gradually.  A starter package containing the 10, 20 and 30 mg tablets is required.  You must follow the instructions on the starter package.  The instructions will guide you through the dose increase and up to the recommended dose of 30 mg twice daily.

  • How long will it take to work?

    Like all of the DMARDs, you will not feel the effects of apremilast right away. Some people begin to feel the effects of apremilast within a few weeks; however it may take up to 4 months to feel the full effect. It is important to be patient and keep taking your medication.

    To provide symptom relief while you are waiting for apremilast to take effect, your health-care provider may recommend taking a steroid, such as prednisone or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

  • When should I not be given apremilast and call my doctor?

    Lactose is a non-medical ingredient in apremilast, so the medication should not be used if you have galactose intolerance, Lapp lactose deficiency or glucose-galactose malabsorption. 

    Currently apremilast has not been studied in pregnancy. Before starting apremilast tell your health-care provider if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. It is not known if apremilast passes into breast milk. Apremilast should not be used if you are breast feeding.  

    Apremilast may worsen depression. Let your health-care provider know if you experience worsening depression or thoughts of suicide while taking apremilast. 

    People with a history of severe kidney disease should discuss the use of apremilast with their health-care provider.  You may require a lower dose of the medication.

    Apremilast rarely can cause a fast heart rate and/or heart palpitations. Let your health-care provider know if you have any heart conditions prior to taking apremilast. When taking apremilast report any increase in heart rate or palpitations while taking the medication.

    Anyone who has had a previous allergic reaction to apremilast or any of the non-medical ingredients should avoid the medication.

    Apremilast can interact with other medications you may be taking. Before starting apremilast discuss this with your health-care provider.

  • What are the side effects of apremilast?

    Like all medications, taking apremilast carries some risk of side effects, which must be balanced with the potential benefits. In general, the risk of joint damage and permanent disability (resulting from arthritis) is much greater than the risks of side effects from apremilast. When monitored properly the vast majority of side effects are rare, most improve over time and are reversible.

    Apremilast can cause significant weight loss in some patients.  Let your health-care provided know if you start to experience weight loss while taking the medication.

    Other common side effects you may experience while taking apremilast include nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea.  Patients have also reported experiencing nasal congestion and sore throat (e.g., the common cold), flu-like symptoms (body aches and pains, tiredness or fever), and headaches.  Talk to your health-care provider if any of these symptoms affect you severely.

  • What helps to reduce side effects?

    Take your apremilast as prescribed and contact your health-care provider if you have any concerns while taking the medication.

    To avoid stomach symptoms, the dose of apremilast is gradually increased once you start the medication.  Regular dosing is than divided twice daily.

  • Do I need any monitoring if I have been given apremilast?

    Your health-care provider will regularly monitor your weight once you start apremilast.  This is important to ensure apremilast is not causing too much weight loss.

    Prior to starting apremilast your health-care provider may order a blood test to assess your kidney function.

    Blood tests are not routinely required while you are talking apremilast. Your health-care provider may order periodic blood tests to check your blood count and follow the activity of your arthritis.

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