Enbrel (etanercept)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2023 | Last updated: October 2023

Enbrel® (etanercept) is a prescription drug used to treat children ages 4 and older and adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis who may benefit from taking injections or pills (systemic therapy) or light therapy. Systemic therapy uses medicines that affect the whole body, not just the skin. Light therapy involves controlled exposure of your affected skin to ultraviolet light.1,2

Enbrel is also approved to treat:1

  • Moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Moderately to severely active polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (pJIA) in children ages 2 years and older
  • Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in adults
  • Active juvenile psoriatic arthritis (JPsA) in children ages 2 years and older
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS)

What are the ingredients in Enbrel?

The active ingredient in Enbrel is etanercept.1

How does Enbrel work?

Plaque psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition. It causes the immune system to mistakenly activate and trigger inflammation, leading to tissue damage and plaques on the skin.2

Enbrel is a type of biologic drug called a tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) blocker. TNF-alpha is a type of chemical messenger that plays a key role in triggering inflammation. People with psoriasis have too much TNF-alpha. Enbrel works by blocking TNF-alpha, which in turn disrupts the cycle of inflammation and reduces psoriasis symptoms.1

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Entrel include:

  • Injection site reactions, such as redness, itching, pain, swelling, bleeding, or bruising
  • Sinus infections

Enbrel has a boxed warning, the strictest warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has this warning because:1

  • It can increase your risk of serious infections
  • Cancer has been reported in children and teens treated with Enbrel

These are not all the possible side effects of Enbrel. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking Enbrel. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking Enbrel.

Other things to know

Enbrel is given as an injection under the skin. Your doctor may decide that you or a caregiver can give the injections at home. If so your doctor will train you or your caregiver on how to prepare, store, and inject Enbrel. Your doctor will also tell you how often you should use Enbrel.1

Before starting treatment with Enbrel, tell your doctor if you have:1

  • An infection, think you have an infection, or have signs of an infection, such as fever, cough, or diarrhea
  • Any open cuts on your body
  • Frequent infections or infections that keep coming back
  • Diabetes, HIV, or a weak immune system
  • Tuberculosis (TB) or have been in close contact with someone with TB
  • Lived in, were born in, or have traveled to countries where there is a risk of getting TB
  • Current or previous hepatitis B infection
  • Current or previous nervous system problems, such as multiple sclerosis or Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Current or previous heart failure
  • A surgery scheduled
  • Recently received or are scheduled to receive a vaccine
  • Been around someone with chicken pox (varicella zoster)

Taking Enbrel can reduce your body’s ability to fight off infections. For this reason, your doctor will test you for tuberculosis before starting treatment. They also will continue to monitor you throughout treatment for signs of any other infections.1

There is not enough data to know if Enbrel is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. Before starting treatment with Enbrel, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant. Your doctor can help you decide if Enbrel is right for you.1

Your doctor may recommend that you continue to use other medicines while taking Enbrel, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and prescription steroids.1

Enbrel can interact with other medicines and cause serious side effects. Before starting treatment with Enbrel, tell your doctor if you take:1

  • Orencia (abatacept) or Kineret (anakinra)
  • Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide)
  • Anti-diabetic medicines

Before beginning treatment for psoriasis, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of Enbrel.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.