What Is A Generic?×
A generic drug is essentially a copycat version of a brand-name medication, offering the same safety, quality, and effectiveness, but often at a lower cost. When a brand-name drug's patent expires, other companies can produce the generic version. These generics contain the same active ingredients and work in the same way in the body as the original brand-name drug. However, they might differ in color, shape, or inactive ingredients. The appeal of generic drugs lies in their affordability; they provide a more cost-effective option for consumers without sacrificing the benefits of the original medication. This makes healthcare more accessible to a larger portion of the population, ensuring that more people can receive the treatment they need without the burden of high costs associated with brand-name drugs.
Stelara is a biologic medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as interleukin inhibitors. It contains the active ingredient ustekinumab, which targets specific proteins in the body’s immune system that are involved in inflammatory responses. By modulating these proteins, Stelara helps control the overactive immune response responsible for several chronic conditions.
Stelara works by selectively inhibiting the action of interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-23 (IL-23). These cytokines play crucial roles in regulating the body’s immune response and are found to be elevated in certain inflammatory conditions. By blocking the activity of IL-12 and IL-23, Stelara helps reduce inflammation and control the symptoms associated with various diseases.
Stelara has proven to be highly effective in treating a wide range of conditions that involve dysregulated immune responses. Its versatility has made it a valuable option for patients suffering from psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and many other disorders. Let’s explore some of the specific applications of Stelara in greater detail.
Table of ContentsToggle
- Warnings and Precautions
- Side Effects
- How to Use
Stelara is primarily used to treat chronic inflammatory conditions. It is a prescription medication that helps to regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body. Here are some of the key applications of Stelara:
Stelara is widely prescribed for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition characterized by the rapid buildup of skin cells, leading to thick, scaly patches. Stelara effectively targets the underlying causes of psoriasis and helps alleviate symptoms such as redness, itching, and flaking.
In addition to treating psoriasis, Stelara is also approved for managing psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects individuals with psoriasis. Stelara helps reduce joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, improving overall joint function and quality of life.
Stelara has shown promising results in the treatment of Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. By modulating the immune response, Stelara can help control the inflammation in the digestive tract, reducing symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Ulcerative colitis is another inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the colon and rectum. Stelara has emerged as an effective treatment option for individuals with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, helping to induce and maintain remission, alleviate symptoms, and improve quality of life.
Other Potential Uses
While Stelara is primarily prescribed for the conditions mentioned above, ongoing research suggests its potential efficacy in treating other autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. These conditions include hidradenitis suppurativa, a chronic skin condition, and Behçet’s disease, a rare inflammatory disorder.
Warnings and Precautions
While Stelara can be effective in managing these conditions, it is essential to be aware of the warnings and precautions associated with its use.
- Potential Allergic Reactions: One of the primary warnings associated with Stelara is the possibility of experiencing an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to Stelara can manifest as hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, or severe dizziness. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction after using Stelara, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.
- Infections: Stelara affects the immune system, making individuals using this medication more susceptible to infections. Serious infections, including bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, have been reported in patients using Stelara. It is important to notify your healthcare provider if you develop any signs of infection, such as fever, chills, cough, or urinary tract symptoms.
- Tuberculosis (TB): Stelara can increase the risk of developing tuberculosis or reactivating latent tuberculosis infections. Before starting Stelara treatment, your healthcare provider will evaluate you for tuberculosis. It is important to inform your doctor if you have a history of tuberculosis or if you have been in close contact with someone who has the condition.
- Malignancies: There have been reports of certain types of cancer, including lymphoma and skin cancer, in patients receiving Stelara treatment. While the link between Stelara and cancer is not fully established, it is essential to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider and undergo regular monitoring during treatment.
- Vaccinations: Before starting treatment with Stelara, it is recommended to ensure that all vaccinations are up to date. Live vaccines should be avoided while using Stelara or for a specific period before starting the medication. Discuss the timing and necessity of vaccinations with your healthcare provider.
- Immunosuppression: Stelara may suppress the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. It is important to take extra precautions to avoid exposure to contagious illnesses, such as avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick or practicing good hand hygiene.
- Liver Function: Patients with pre-existing liver conditions should inform their healthcare provider before starting Stelara. Regular monitoring of liver function may be necessary during treatment to ensure the medication is not causing any adverse effects on the liver.
While Stelara has proven to be effective for many patients, it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects that may occur.
Common Side Effects
- Headache: Some individuals may experience mild to moderate headaches while taking Stelara. This side effect is usually temporary and resolves on its own.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired or experiencing a lack of energy is a common side effect reported by some Stelara users.
- Nausea: Nausea or a feeling of queasiness may occur in some individuals after taking Stelara. It is often mild and goes away without intervention.
- Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: Stelara may slightly increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold or sinusitis. These infections are typically mild and self-limiting.
- Injection Site Reactions: Stelara is administered via subcutaneous injections, and some individuals may experience redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. These reactions are generally mild and resolve quickly.
Rare Side Effects
- Allergic Reactions: In rare cases, Stelara can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Signs of an allergic reaction may include hives, itching, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Immediate medical attention should be sought if these symptoms occur.
- Infections: While Stelara helps to suppress the immune system, which can reduce inflammation, it may also increase the risk of infections. Rarely, severe infections, such as pneumonia or cellulitis, can occur. Any signs of infection, such as fever, chills, persistent cough, or skin redness, should be promptly evaluated by a healthcare professional.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: Stelara may rarely cause gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, abdominal pain, or vomiting. If these symptoms persist or worsen, medical advice should be sought.
- Liver Function Abnormalities: In rare cases, Stelara can affect liver function, leading to elevated liver enzymes. Regular monitoring of liver function is typically recommended during Stelara treatment.
- Blood Disorders: Although rare, Stelara has been associated with changes in blood cell counts, such as a decrease in white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. Routine blood tests can help monitor for any potential blood abnormalities.
Severe Side Effects
- Serious Infections: While the risk is low, Stelara can increase the susceptibility to severe infections, such as tuberculosis or invasive fungal infections. Symptoms may include persistent fever, cough, night sweats, weight loss, or unusual fatigue. Seek medical help immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
- Malignancies: Although extremely rare, Stelara may slightly increase the risk of certain types of cancers, such as lymphoma or skin cancer. Regular screenings and prompt reporting of any new or suspicious growths are essential for individuals taking Stelara.
- Serious Allergic Reactions: Although uncommon, Stelara can potentially cause severe allergic reactions. These reactions may manifest as difficulty breathing, chest tightness, swelling of the face or throat, dizziness, or fainting. Seek emergency medical assistance if any of these symptoms occur.
- Neurological Disorders: In rare instances, Stelara has been associated with neurological side effects, including seizures, vision changes, or numbness/tingling in the extremities. Immediate medical attention should be sought if any of these symptoms are experienced.
When taking Stelara, it’s essential to be aware of potential interactions with other drugs, herbal remedies, and food.
Drug Interactions with Stelara
- Anticoagulants: Stelara may increase the risk of bleeding when used with anticoagulant medications like warfarin or heparin. It’s important to closely monitor blood clotting parameters and consult your healthcare provider for appropriate adjustments.
- Immunosuppressants: Combining Stelara with other immunosuppressive drugs, such as methotrexate or azathioprine, may further weaken the immune system. This can increase the risk of infections. Your doctor will carefully evaluate the benefits and potential risks of combining these medications.
- Biologic Agents: Stelara belongs to a class of medications known as biologic agents. Combining Stelara with other biologics, such as adalimumab or infliximab, may increase the risk of serious infections. Your healthcare provider will assess the suitability of using multiple biologic agents together.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Stelara can increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding when used with NSAIDs like ibuprofen or aspirin. It’s advisable to use these medications cautiously and seek medical advice if any symptoms of bleeding occur.
Herbal Interactions with Stelara
- St. John’s Wort: St. John’s Wort is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of depression. However, it may decrease the effectiveness of Stelara by increasing its metabolism in the body. This can lead to reduced drug levels and diminished therapeutic benefits.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is often used to boost the immune system and prevent common colds. When combined with Stelara, echinacea may stimulate the immune system excessively, potentially reducing the efficacy of Stelara in managing autoimmune conditions.
- Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is a popular herbal supplement used for cognitive enhancement. It can increase the risk of bleeding when used with Stelara, as both substances possess anticoagulant properties. Caution should be exercised when combining these two.
Food Interactions with Stelara
- Grapefruit Juice: Grapefruit juice contains compounds that can inhibit the enzymes responsible for metabolizing Stelara. This can increase the concentration of the medication in the body, potentially leading to stronger side effects. It’s advisable to avoid consuming grapefruit juice while using Stelara.
- Alcohol: Although Stelara itself does not have direct interactions with alcohol, excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system. Since Stelara’s mechanism involves immune regulation, it’s recommended to moderate alcohol intake to maintain overall health and treatment efficacy.
How to Use
To ensure the safe and effective use of Stelara, it’s important to follow the recommended guidelines and instructions provided by your healthcare professional.
- Select a clean injection site, typically the front of your thighs or the lower abdomen.
- Cleanse the injection site with a sterile alcohol wipe and allow it to air dry.
- Remove the Stelara vial from the refrigerator and let it reach room temperature naturally. Do not warm it in any other way.
- Inspect the Stelara solution. It should be clear and colorless. Do not use it if it appears discolored or contains particles.
- Attach the needle to the syringe and withdraw the prescribed dose of Stelara.
- Gently pinch the cleansed injection site and insert the needle into the skin at a 45-degree angle.
- Inject the medication slowly and steadily.
Proper dosing is crucial to ensure the effectiveness and safety of this medication.
The initial dosing of Stelara may vary depending on the condition being treated. In general, Stelara is administered in two doses: an initial loading dose and a maintenance dose. The loading dose helps to establish therapeutic levels of the medication in the body, while the maintenance dose is administered at regular intervals to maintain the desired effect.
Following the loading dose, maintenance doses of Stelara are typically administered at specific intervals, as determined by the healthcare provider. These intervals may range from every 8 weeks to every 12 weeks, depending on the individual’s response to treatment. It is crucial to adhere to the recommended dosing schedule to ensure the medication’s effectiveness.
Dosing for Psoriasis
For the treatment of psoriasis, the recommended dosing of Stelara may differ depending on the severity of the condition. In most cases, the initial loading dose is administered, followed by maintenance doses every 12 weeks. However, your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate dosing regimen based on your specific needs.
Dosing for Crohn’s Disease
In the case of Crohn’s disease, Stelara may be prescribed for both inducing and maintaining remission. The dosing schedule for Crohn’s disease typically involves an initial loading dose, followed by maintenance doses every 8 or 12 weeks, depending on the individual’s response to treatment. Your healthcare provider will determine the optimal dosing regimen for your condition.
Missed Dose of Stelara
If you miss a dose of Stelara, it is important not to panic. Remember, if you have any concerns or uncertainties about what to do if you miss a dose, always consult with your healthcare provider for guidance. Follow the instructions below to determine the best course of action:
- If you realize you missed a dose and it is within a few days of the scheduled dose, administer the missed dose as soon as possible.
- If it has been longer since the missed dose and it is close to the time of your next scheduled dose, skip the missed dose and resume your regular dosing schedule.
- Do not double the dose to make up for a missed dose.
Overdose of Stelara
While it is important to adhere to the prescribed dosing instructions, accidental overdose can occur. If you suspect an overdose of Stelara, seek medical attention immediately. Prompt action can help minimize any potential complications.
The signs and symptoms of a Stelara overdose may vary from individual to individual. Some common signs to watch out for include:
- Severe headache
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
What to do
If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms after taking Stelara, it is crucial to seek emergency medical attention. Remember, prompt medical intervention is crucial in the case of an overdose to ensure your safety and well-being.
In the event of a suspected Stelara overdose, it is essential to take the following steps:
- Contact your local emergency helpline or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
- Inform the medical professionals about the medication and the suspected overdose.
- Follow the instructions provided by the healthcare professionals and cooperate fully throughout the treatment process.
One of the primary concerns when considering the use of Stelara during pregnancy is its potential effects on the developing fetus. Since Stelara affects the immune system, there is a possibility that it may impact fetal development. However, studies on the safety of Stelara in pregnancy are limited, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions.
Before making any decisions regarding Stelara during pregnancy, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. They will consider various factors such as the severity of your condition, potential risks, and alternative treatment options. In some cases, the benefits of continuing Stelara treatment may outweigh the potential risks. However, the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.
If you’re planning to conceive, it’s natural to wonder how Stelara might impact your fertility. Fortunately, available evidence suggests that Stelara does not have a significant effect on fertility. However, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation.
It is important to store Stelara correctly to maintain its potency and ensure its safety for use.
- Temperature: Stelara is typically stored at refrigerated temperatures between 2°C and 8°C (36°F and 46°F). However, certain formulations may be stored at room temperature for a limited period. It is important to consult the medication’s packaging or your healthcare provider for specific temperature guidelines.
- Avoid freezing: Do not freeze Stelara. Freezing can damage the medication and render it ineffective.
- Protect from light: Stelara should be protected from direct light exposure. Keep the medication in its original packaging to shield it from light.
- Discard expired or damaged medication: If Stelara has expired or the packaging is damaged, do not use it. Expired or damaged medication may be less effective or potentially harmful.
When it comes to medication disposal, it is crucial to follow proper guidelines to prevent potential harm to the environment and ensure public safety.
- Follow any specific disposal instructions provided with the medication.
- If no instructions are provided, check the FDA’s list of medications that should be flushed down the toilet due to potential risks.
- Mix medications with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter, before placing them in the trash to discourage accidental ingestion.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. It should not be taken as an endorsement of any specific medication or treatment. Individual health conditions and responses to treatment can vary greatly; therefore, this information should not be seen as a guarantee of safety, suitability, or effectiveness for any particular individual. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized medical advice and before making any decisions regarding your health or treatment plans.