Stelara (ustekinumab) is an FDA-approved prescription biologic medication.
It is used to treat certain autoimmune conditions, including moderate to severe Crohn’s disease in adults ages 18 and over.
Stelara is a first-in-class biologic therapy. Biologic medications come from natural sources, such as the living cells of people, plants, animals, and microorganisms.
Biologics may be successful in treating medical conditions that don’t respond well to other treatments. They are also used for conditions that have no other form of treatment.
Stelara is used to treat:
- moderate to severe Crohn’s disease
- moderate to severe psoriasis
- psoriatic arthritis
- moderate to severe active ulcerative colitis
Stelara works differently than other medications, including other biologics used to treat Crohn’s.
Stelara binds to two small proteins (cytokines) that are meant to support the body’s immune response. In people with Crohn’s, levels of these cytokines are elevated, causing long-term inflammation. By blocking these cytokines, Stelara reduces inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
If you have Crohn’s, you may need to try several types of medication before you find the best one for you. Stelara is not usually the first medication used to treat Crohn’s.
Other treatments your doctor may recommend first include steroids, such as prednisone, or immunomodulatory drugs. Other biologics used to treat Crohn’s, such as TNF-alpha inhibitors or integrin blockers, may also be tried.
The first time you receive Stelara, it will be given through an IV infusion at a doctor’s office or clinic. The amount given in your first dose will be determined by your weight.
After your first IV dose, you take Stelara as an injection at home. You can self-inject or have a friend or loved one help you.
Stelara comes in a prefilled syringe with a plunger top. No matter what your initial infusion dose was, your ongoing doses will be 90 milligrams. No measuring is necessary.
The needle cover on the syringe contains latex, so make sure to let a healthcare professional know if you have a latex allergy.
Stelara can be injected into any of these sites:
- upper front thigh
- abdomen, except for a 2-inch radius around your belly button
- outer upper arm
Before injecting, always check the expiration date on the box. You should also inspect the liquid in the syringe. It should range in color from clear to pale yellow. It may contain a few small, white particles. If the liquid is cloudy, frozen, dark yellow, or has large particles, do not use it.
Stelara is usually prescribed for self-injection once every 8 weeks.
However, you and your doctor may decide that you need more frequent doses for symptom relief or remission. The amount of Stelara you get per dose does not change. Only the time between injections may vary, based on your response to the drug.
Since it affects the immune system, Stelara can make it harder for you to fight off infection. It may also increase your risk of getting an infection.
Biologics, including Stelara, may have certain risks and side effects. You and a healthcare professional can decide if the benefits of Stelara outweigh any potential risks.
Some of these potential risks and side effects include:
- serious infections, including tuberculosis
- infections caused by viruses, fungi, or bacteria
- certain types of cancer, including skin cancer
- severe allergic reactions to the ingredients in Stelara, including anaphylaxis
- posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES)
- lung inflammation
Because it weakens the immune system, you and those you live with should not receive any live vaccines. Talk with a healthcare professional about the vaccines that you and others in your household may need before starting treatment.
Also, let your doctor know if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. The cause of Crohn’s is currently unknown, although genetics, heredity, and environmental factors may all play a role.
People with this condition have chronic inflammation in their digestive tract. This is caused by an exaggerated immune system response to the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut.
Crohn’s affects people differently. Some symptoms you may experience with Crohn’s include:
- abdominal pain
- irregular periods
- weight loss
Resources for coping with Crohn’s
For more information on all aspects of coping with Crohn’s disease, check out these articles:
Stelara is a biologic medication used in the treatment of moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. It is FDA-approved for use in adults ages 18 and over.
Stelara targets two cytokines that impact inflammation and the immune response. By blocking these cytokines, inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can be reduced or alleviated.
The first dose of Stelara is given via an IV infusion. Afterward, it is administered at home via self-injection once every 8 weeks or less.