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Enbrel Side Effects Center

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 9/28/2016

Enbrel (etanercept) is a tumor necrosis factor inhibitor used to treat certain autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and plaque psoriasis. Common side effects of Enbrel include:

  • Mild nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Redness or discomfort at the injection site
  • Heartburn
  • Weight changes
  • Cold symptoms (cough, runny nose)
  • Weakness

Serious side effects include:

  • Seizures
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Skin changes (rash, pustules, or blisters)
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Numbness and tingling,
  • Vision changes
  • Dizziness

Enbrel is available in three preparations; 0.98 mL of a 50 mg/mL solution of etanercept, 0.51 mL of a 50 mg/mL solution of etanercept and 25 mg etanercept. All are used for injection; only the 25 mg strength is available in a multiuse vial, the others are available in a prefilled syringe. Starting dose is often 50 mg injected twice a week in adults and 0.8 mg per Kg in pediatric patients weighing less than 63 Kg. Other doses may be used. Enbrel may interact with anakinra, cyclophosphamide, sulfasalazine, or drugs that weaken your immune system (such as cancer medicine or steroids). Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment with Enbrel; it is not expected to be harmful to a fetus. It is unknown if Enbrel passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.

Our Enbrel Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is Patient Information in Detail?

Easy-to-read and understand detailed drug information and pill images for the patient or caregiver from Cerner Multum.

Enbrel in Detail - Patient Information: Side Effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using etanercept and call your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms of lymphoma:

  • fever, night sweats, weight loss, tiredness;
  • feeling full after eating only a small amount;
  • pain in your upper stomach that may spread to your shoulder;
  • easy bruising or bleeding, pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate; or
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Stop using etanercept and call your doctor at once if you have any of these other serious side effects:

  • signs of infection (fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, confusion, neck stiffness, flu symptoms);
  • shortness of breath with swelling, rapid weight gain;
  • chest pain, ongoing cough, coughing up mucus or blood;
  • signs of skin infection such as itching, swelling, warmth, redness, or oozing;
  • black, bloody, or tarry stools;
  • changes in mood or personality (in children);
  • numbness, burning, pain, or tingly feeling;
  • joint pain or swelling with fever, swollen glands, muscle aches, chest pain, unusual thoughts or behavior, and/or seizure (convulsions); or
  • patchy skin color, red spots, or a butterfly-shaped skin rash over your cheeks and nose (worsens in sunlight).

Less serious side effects may include:

  • mild nausea, vomiting, mild diarrhea, mild stomach pain;
  • runny or stuffy nose, cold symptoms; or
  • headache.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Enbrel (Etanercept)

What is Patient Information Overview?

A concise overview of the drug for the patient or caregiver from First DataBank.

Enbrel Overview - Patient Information: Side Effects

SIDE EFFECTS: See also Warning section.

Redness, itching, pain, or swelling at the injection site may occur. This usually starts 1-2 days after the injection and clears up in 3-5 days. Injection site reactions usually lessen after the first month. Headache may also occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor or pharmacist promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor right away if you develop signs of infection while using this drug, such as: fever, chills, persistent sore throat, persistent cough, night sweats, trouble breathing, painful/frequent urination, unusual vaginal discharge, white patches in the mouth (oral thrush).

Tell your doctor right away if you have any serious side effects, including: a rash on nose and cheeks (butterfly rash), dizziness, extreme fatigue, looking pale, hair loss, swelling of the arms/legs, unusual bruising/bleeding, severe headache, mental/mood changes, seizures, unexplained muscle weakness, numbness/tingling of the hands/feet, unsteadiness, vision changes, severe stomach/abdominal pain, persistent nausea/vomiting, dark urine, yellowing eyes/skin.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

In the US -

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Read the entire patient information overview for Enbrel (Etanercept)

What is Prescribing information?

The FDA package insert formatted in easy-to-find categories for health professionals and clinicians.

Enbrel FDA Prescribing Information: Side Effects
(Adverse Reactions)


The following serious adverse reactions are discussed in greater detail in other sections of the labeling:

Clinical Trials Experience

Across clinical studies and postmarketing experience, the most serious adverse reactions with Enbrel were infections, neurologic events, CHF, and hematologic events [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. The most common adverse reactions with Enbrel were infections and injection site reactions.

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reactions rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not predict the rates observed in clinical practice.

Adverse Reactions In Adult Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Or Plaque Psoriasis

The data described below reflect exposure to Enbrel in 2219 adult patients with RA followed for up to 80 months, in 182 patients with PsA for up to 24 months, in 138 patients with AS for up to 6 months, and in 1204 adult patients with PsO for up to 18 months.

In controlled trials, the proportion of Enbrel-treated patients who discontinued treatment due to adverse events was approximately 4% in the indications studied.

Adverse Reactions In Pediatric Patients

In general, the adverse reactions in pediatric patients were similar in frequency and type as those seen in adult patients [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS, Use In Specific Populations, and Clinical Studies].

In a 48-week clinical study in 211 children aged 4 to 17 years with pediatric PsO, the adverse reactions reported were similar to those seen in previous studies in adults with PsO. Long-term safety profile for up to 264 additional weeks was assessed in an open-label extension study and no new safety signals were identified.

In open-label clinical studies of children with JIA, adverse reactions reported in those ages 2 to 4 years were similar to adverse reactions reported in older children.


Infections, including viral, bacterial, and fungal infections, have been observed in adult and pediatric patients. Infections have been noted in all body systems and have been reported in patients receiving Enbrel alone or in combination with other immunosuppressive agents.

In controlled portions of trials, the types and severity of infection were similar between Enbrel and the respective control group (placebo or MTX for RA and PsA patients) in RA, PsA, AS and PsO patients. Rates of infections in RA and adult PsO patients are provided in Table 3 and Table 4, respectively. Infections consisted primarily of upper respiratory tract infection, sinusitis and influenza.

In controlled portions of trials in RA, PsA, AS and PsO, the rates of serious infection were similar (0.8% in placebo, 3.6% in MTX, and 1.4% in Enbrel/Enbrel + MTX-treated groups). In clinical trials in rheumatologic indications, serious infections experienced by patients have included, but are not limited to, pneumonia, cellulitis, septic arthritis, bronchitis, gastroenteritis, pyelonephritis, sepsis, abscess and osteomyelitis. In clinical trials in adult PsO patients, serious infections experienced by patients have included, but are not limited to, pneumonia, cellulitis, gastroenteritis, abscess and osteomyelitis. The rate of serious infections was not increased in open-label extension trials and was similar to that observed in Enbrel- and placebo-treated patients from controlled trials.

In 66 global clinical trials of 17,505 patients (21,015 patient-years of therapy), tuberculosis was observed in approximately 0.02% of patients. In 17,696 patients (27,169 patient-years of therapy) from 38 clinical trials and 4 cohort studies in the U.S. and Canada, tuberculosis was observed in approximately 0.006% of patients. These studies include reports of pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

The types of infections reported in pediatric patients with PsO and JIA were generally mild and consistent with those commonly seen in the general pediatric population. Two JIA patients developed varicella infection and signs and symptoms of aseptic meningitis, which resolved without sequelae.

Injection Site Reactions

In placebo-controlled trials in rheumatologic indications, approximately 37% of patients treated with Enbrel developed injection site reactions. In controlled trials in patients with PsO, 15% of adult patients and 7% of pediatric patients treated with Enbrel developed injection site reactions during the first 3 months of treatment. All injection site reactions were described as mild to moderate (erythema, itching, pain, swelling, bleeding, bruising) and generally did not necessitate drug discontinuation. Injection site reactions generally occurred in the first month and subsequently decreased in frequency. The mean duration of injection site reactions was 3 to 5 days. Seven percent of patients experienced redness at a previous injection site when subsequent injections were given.

Other Adverse Reactions

Table 3 summarizes adverse reactions reported in adult RA patients. The types of adverse reactions seen in patients with PsA or AS were similar to the types of adverse reactions seen in patients with RA.

Table 3. Percent of Adult RA Patients Experiencing Adverse Reactions in Controlled Clinical Trials

  Placebo Controlleda
(Studies I, II, and a Phase 2 Study)
Active Controlledb
(Study III)
(N = 152)
(N = 349)
(N = 217)
(N = 415)
Reaction Percent of Patients Percent of Patients
Infectiond (total) 39 50 86 81
Upper Respiratory
30 38 70 65
Non-upper Respiratory
15 21 59 54
Injection Site Reactions 11 37 18 43
Diarrhea 9 8 16 16
Rash 2 3 19 13
Pruritus 1 2 5 5
Pyrexia - 3 4 2
Urticaria 1 - 4 2
Hypersensitivity - - 1 1
a Includes data from the 6-month study in which patients received concurrent MTX therapy in both arms.
b Study duration of 2 years.
c Any dose.
d Includes bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
e Most frequent Upper Respiratory Infections were upper respiratory tract infection, sinusitis and influenza.

In placebo-controlled adult PsO trials, the percentages of patients reporting adverse reactions in the 50 mg twice a week dose group were similar to those observed in the 25 mg twice a week dose group or placebo group.

Table 4 summarizes adverse reactions reported in adult PsO patients from Studies I and II.

Table 4. Percent of Adult PsO Patients Experiencing Adverse Reactions in Placebo-Controlled Portions of Clinical Trials (Studies I & II)

(N = 359)
(N = 876)
Reaction Percent of Patients
Infectionb (total) 28 27
Non-upper Respiratory
14 12
Upper Respiratory Infectionsc 17 17
Injection Site Reactions 6 15
Diarrhea 2 3
Rash 1 1
Pruritus 2 1
Urticaria - 1
Hypersensitivity - 1
Pyrexia 1 -
a Includes 25 mg subcutaneous (SC) once weekly (QW), 25 mg SC twice weekly (BIW), 50 mg SC QW, and 50 mg SC BIW doses.
b Includes bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
c Most frequent Upper Respiratory Infections were upper respiratory tract infection, nasopharyngitis and sinusitis.


As with all therapeutic proteins, there is potential for immunogenicity. The detection of antibody formation is highly dependent on the sensitivity and specificity of the assay. Additionally, the observed incidence of antibody (including neutralizing antibody) positivity in an assay may be influenced by several factors including assay methodology, sample handling, timing of sample collection, concomitant medications, and underlying disease. For these reasons, comparison of the incidence of antibodies to Enbrel in the studies described below with the incidence of antibodies in other studies or to other products may be misleading.


Patients with RA, PsA, AS or PsO were tested at multiple time points for antibodies to etanercept. Antibodies to the TNF receptor portion or other protein components of the Enbrel drug product were detected at least once in sera of approximately 6% of adult patients with RA, PsA, AS or PsO. These antibodies were all non-neutralizing. Results from JIA patients were similar to those seen in adult RA patients treated with Enbrel.

In adult PsO studies that evaluated the exposure of etanercept for up to 120 weeks, the percentage of patients testing positive at the assessed time points of 24, 48, 72 and 96 weeks ranged from 3.6%-8.7% and were all non-neutralizing. The percentage of patients testing positive increased with an increase in the duration of study; however, the clinical significance of this finding is unknown. No apparent correlation of antibody development to clinical response or adverse events was observed. The immunogenicity data of Enbrel beyond 120 weeks of exposure are unknown.

In pediatric PsO studies, approximately 10% of subjects developed antibodies to etanercept by Week 48 and approximately 16% of subjects developed antibodies to etanercept by Week 264. All of these antibodies were non-neutralizing. However, because of the limitations of the immunogenicity assays, the incidence of binding and neutralizing antibodies may not have been reliably determined.

The data reflect the percentage of patients whose test results were considered positive for antibodies to etanercept in an ELISA assay, and are highly dependent on the sensitivity and specificity of the assay.


Patients with RA had serum samples tested for autoantibodies at multiple time points. In RA Studies I and II, the percentage of patients evaluated for antinuclear antibodies (ANA) who developed new positive ANA (titer ≥ 1:40) was higher in patients treated with Enbrel (11%) than in placebo-treated patients (5%). The percentage of patients who developed new positive anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies was also higher by radioimmunoassay (15% of patients treated with Enbrel compared to 4% of placebo-treated patients) and by Crithidia luciliae assay (3% of patients treated with Enbrel compared to none of placebo-treated patients). The proportion of patients treated with Enbrel who developed anticardiolipin antibodies was similarly increased compared to placebo-treated patients. In RA Study III, no pattern of increased autoantibody development was seen in Enbrel patients compared to MTX patients [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Postmarketing Experience

Adverse reactions have been reported during post approval use of Enbrel in adults and pediatric patients. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to Enbrel exposure.

Adverse reactions are listed by body system below:

Blood and lymphatic system disorders: pancytopenia, anemia, leukopenia, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, lymphadenopathy, aplastic anemia [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Cardiac disorders: congestive heart failure [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Gastrointestinal disorders: inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
General disorders: angioedema, chest pain
Hepatobiliary disorders: autoimmune hepatitis, elevated transaminases, hepatitis B reactivation
Immune disorders: macrophage activation syndrome, systemic vasculitis, sarcoidosis
Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders: lupus-like syndrome
Neoplasms benign, malignant, and unspecified: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, Merkel cell carcinoma [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Nervous system disorders: convulsions, multiple sclerosis, demyelination, optic neuritis, transverse myelitis, paresthesias [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Ocular disorders: uveitis, scleritis
Respiratory, thoracic and mediastinal disorders: interstitial lung disease
Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: cutaneous lupus erythematosus, cutaneous vasculitis (including leukocytoclastic vasculitis), erythema multiforme,
Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, subcutaneous nodule, new or worsening psoriasis (all sub-types including pustular and palmoplantar)

Opportunistic infections, including atypical mycobacterial infection, herpes zoster, aspergillosis and Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia, and protozoal infections have also been reported in postmarketing use.

Rare (< 0.1%) cases of IBD have been reported in JIA patients receiving Enbrel, which is not effective for the treatment of IBD.

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Enbrel (Etanercept)

Enbrel - User Reviews

Enbrel User Reviews

Now you can gain knowledge and insight about a drug treatment with Patient Discussions.

Here is a collection of user reviews for the medication Enbrel sorted by most helpful. Patient Discussions FAQs

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