Biologic medications have revolutionized the treatment of autoimmune types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis. But the injections can be painful. That’s a problem because they need to be taken regularly – sometimes as often as weekly, or even daily.
“Getting an injection is hard enough. The needle stick alone is not fun. But then, if you have a medication that causes burning at the injection site or as it’s going in, that can make injections pretty traumatic for patients,” says Cara M. Hoffart, DO, a pediatric rheumatologist and pain clinic director at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri.
Dr. Hoffart understands all too well; she gets injections to manage her ankylosing spondylitis. “Pain has factored into me thinking about trying different medications,” she admits.
Some drug makers are now responding to these concerns with reformulated medications intended to reduce pain. AbbVie created a new version of Humira that removes citrate, an inactive ingredient that’s associated with what many say was a notoriously painful injection. It also uses a thinner needle and injects 50 percent less liquid to reduce pain. The Enbrel Mini is a new, phosphate-free drug formulation that Amgen says causes significantly less injection-site pain. The device also has an injection speed switch, so users can choose the speed of medicine release that is most comfortable.