Certolizumab Pegol

Drug Name
Certolizumab Pegol

Brand Name(s)
Cimzia®

Drug Class
Biologic

Certolizumab is used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

  • What types of arthritis is certolizumab used for?

    Certolizumab is used to treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

    For RA and psoriatic arthritis, certolizumab may be used as monotherapy or in combination with DMARD therapy, such as methotrexate (MTX).

    Certolizumab may be used as monotherapy for treatment of ankylosing spondylitis that has not responded to DMARD therapy.

  • How is certolizumab administered?

    Certolizumab is delivered by subcutaneous (s.c.) injection (meaning in the fatty layer of tissue just under the skin).

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

    The starting dose of certolizumab is 400 mg, given once immediately then again at weeks two and four. This is followed by a maintenance dose of 200 mg given once every two weeks. In some cases, a 400 mg dose may be prescribed once a month.

    The medication comes in single use pre-filled syringes for administration.

  • How long will it take to work?

    As with all of the biologics, you may not feel the effects of certolizumab right away. Some people begin to feel its effects fairly quickly; however, it may take three to six months to feel its full effect. It is important to be patient and keep taking your medication.

    To provide symptom relief while you are waiting for certolizumab 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 take certolizumab and call my doctor?

    Taking certolizumab can make it more difficult for your body to fight infections. Therefore, people with active infections should not take certolizumab. If you have a fever, think you have an infection or have been prescribed an antibiotic, contact your health-care provider. People who have had frequent infections in the past or a history of tuberculosis should discuss the use of certolizumab with their health-care provider. 

    Also contact your health-care provider if you are having surgery as you may need to stop certolizumab until you are healed and there is no sign of infection.

    During pregnancy the risk of drug therapy for the child should be weighed against the risk of untreated inflammatory disease for the mother and child.  Data suggests that certolizumab does not pose significant fetal risk and the medication may be considered for use throughout pregnancy.  Low transfer to breast milk has also been shown with certolizumab and the medication is considered to be compatible with breast feeding. Please tell your health-care provider if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant before starting certolizumab.

    People who have had a previous allergic reaction to certolizumab should avoid the medication.
    Anyone with a history of cancer or nervous system problems, such as multiple sclerosis, should discuss the use of certolizumab with their health-care provider.

    Certolizumab may make a condition called congestive heart failure worse. Tell your doctor if you have congestive heart failure.

    Ideally, your vaccinations should be up to date prior to starting certolizumab. If you have already started therapy with certolizumab, your health-care provider will likely recommend most inactive vaccines (e.g., influenza, pneumococcal). Live vaccines are not recommended due to risk of causing infection. Before receiving any vaccinations while taking certolizumab, you should speak with your health-care provider.

  • What are the side effects of certolizumab?

    As with all medications, taking certolizumab 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 certolizumab. When monitored properly the vast majority of side effects are rare and most improve over time and are reversible.

    Firstly, certolizumab can increase your risk of infections.

    In rare cases, certolizumab can cause a reaction (redness, pain and itching) at the injection site. Talk to your health-care provider if these symptoms become severe.

    Also in unusual circumstances, some people may experience headaches with certolizumab. If this becomes severe please speak with your health-care provider.

    Some people have developed lupus-like symptoms that disappeared after the medication was stopped. If you have chest pains that do not go away, shortness of breath or a rash on your cheeks or arms that gets worse in the sun, call your doctor right away.

    There have been rare cases of disorders that affect the nervous system of people taking certolizumab or other TNF-blockers. Signs that you could be experiencing a problem affecting your nervous system include: numbness or tingling, problems with your vision, weakness in your legs, and dizziness.

    Certolizumab very rarely can cause a drop in blood counts.

  • What helps to reduce side effects?

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

    To avoid injection reactions, injection sites should be rotated and avoid areas where the skin is tender, bruised, red and/or hard.

  • Do I need any monitoring while taking certolizumab?

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


This information was last updated November 2017, with expert advice from:

Jason Kielly, B.Sc. (pharm.), Pharm.D.
Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Clinical Pharmacist, Rheumatic Health Program, Eastern Health

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