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Stelara (ustekinumab)

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

Stelara® (ustekinumab) is a prescription biologic drug used to treat adults and children ages 6 and up who have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. Stelara may be recommended for those who might benefit from treatment with injections or pills (systemic therapy) or light therapy.1

Stelara is also approved to treat adults and children ages 6 and up with active psoriatic arthritis.

What are the ingredients in Stelara?

The active ingredient in Stelara is ustekinumab.1

How does Stelara work?

Stelara is a type of biologic drug that targets interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interleukin-23 (IL-23). IL-12 and IL-23 are chemical messengers that play a key role in inflammation. Stelara works by binding to IL-12 and IL-23, which prevents them from activating cells involved in inflammation. This process can help reduce inflammation and control psoriasis symptoms.1

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What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Stelara include:1

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Itching
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Redness at the injection site
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

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

Other things to know

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

  • An infection that does not go away or keeps coming back
  • Any open cuts
  • Tuberculosis (TB) or have been in close contact with someone with TB
  • A latex allergy, since the needle cover on the prefilled syringe contains latex
  • Recently received or are scheduled to receive any vaccines
  • Any new or changing lesions within psoriasis areas or on normal skin
  • Received allergy shots, especially for serious allergic reactions
  • A history of any type of cancer

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

Because Stelara affects the immune system, it can decrease your ability to fight infection. For this reason, your doctor will test you for TB before starting treatment with Stelara. They will also watch you for signs and symptoms of TB during and after treatment with Stelara.1

Stelara 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 Stelara. Your doctor will also tell you how often you should use Stelara.1

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 Stelara.