There’s currently no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but Remicade is a treatment that can help reduce your symptoms. To manage your symptoms, you must receive this drug for many years. Understandably, you may be concerned about how using this drug for a long period can affect you. In the long term, Remicade can have side effects that may be common or rare. Some side effects may require medical care. Keep reading for ways to remedy mild side effects and learn symptoms that should prompt a call to your doctor.

Learn more: Complete drug information for Remicade »

Long-term use of Remicade can increase your risk of some of the more common side effects of this drug. These include:

  • sinus infections
  • sore throat
  • coughing
  • headache
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • infusion-related reactions, such as:
    • fever
    • chills
    • chest pain
    • rash
    • itching
    • shortness of breath
    • blood pressure changes

These side effects may be bothersome, but they’re usually mild. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about things you can do to minimize these side effects. Your doctor may give you antihistamines, acetaminophen, or steroids before your Remicade infusions to help decrease the risk of infusion reactions.

A boxed warning is also known as a black box warning. It’s the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It highlights the risks that are most serious or life-threatening for a drug. The following warnings are for the most serious side effects of Remicade. The risk of these side effects is greater the longer you use this drug. If you notice any symptoms of these side effects, contact your doctor right away.

Serious infections

Remicade can increase your risk of serious infections that may lead to hospitalization or death. This drug affects your immune system. It can decrease your body’s ability to fight infections such as tuberculosis or infections caused by different bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. This risk is even greater if you’re 65 years or older. Symptoms of serious infections can include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • cough
  • warm, red, or painful skin
  • open cuts or sores

Risk of cancer

Remicade can increase the risk of certain cancers. These include:

  • lymphomas
  • breast cancer
  • colon cancer
  • rectal cancer
  • skin cancer

Remicade decreases your immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Symptoms of lymphoma and cancer can include:

  • pain
  • abnormal skin growths
  • skin discoloration
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Let your doctor know if you have a history of cancer. A history of cancer can also increase your risk of these side effects.

There are serious side effects other than those in the boxed warnings that can result from using Remicade. Long-term use of Remicade can increase your risk of the following side effects.

Reactivation of hepatitis B virus

Long-term use of Remicade has been linked with the reactivation of hepatitis B virus. This means that if you’ve had hepatitis B virus infection that your body cleared, this drug could make the infection come back again. Symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • fatigue
  • jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
  • fever
  • lack of appetite
  • skin rash anywhere on your body
  • joint pain

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Liver disease

Long-term use of Remicade may cause severe liver disease, including liver failure, hepatitis, and blockage of enzymes from your liver. Some of these enzymes are needed to process certain drugs. Blockage can lead to higher levels of these drugs in your body and lead to more side effects.

Any of these conditions may lead to death or the need for a liver transplant. Symptoms of these types of liver disease include:

  • yellowing of your skin and whites of your eyes
  • dark-colored urine
  • persistent pain on the right side of your stomach pain
  • fever
  • extreme fatigue

Call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.

Blood cell problems

Long-term use of Remicade may lower the number of blood cells in your blood. Fewer white blood cells lower your body’s ability to fight infections. Fewer red blood cells can lead to anemia and less oxygen delivered to your tissues. Fewer platelets may reduce the ability of your blood to clot when you get a cut. Symptoms of decreased blood cells can include:

  • infection or fever that does not go away
  • bruising or bleeding that happens easily
  • pale complexion

Call your doctor if you have any of the these symptoms.

If you receive Remicade to treat ankylosing spondylitis, you will most likely receive it for a long time. Therefore, it is important to know ways to relieve the more mild side effects and how to respond to those that are more severe.

Q:

How should I respond to symptoms of serious side effects?

A:

Contact your doctor right away. Sometimes these symptoms may mean nothing, but sometimes they can be a warning. It is always best to err on the side of caution so that both you and your doctor know for sure.

Healthline Medical TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.