Stelara, the brand name for ustekinumab is an immunosuppressant drug. It inhibits the effects of chemical substances in the body responsible for inflation. Its most common uses are in treating psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
- What is Stelara (ustekinumab) used for?
- How to inject Stelara (ustekinumab)?
- How long does it take for Stelara to work?
- What are the side effects of Stelara (ustekinumab)?
- What should I avoid while taking Stelara?
- Can I drink alcohol while taking Stelara?
- How long does Stelara stay in your system?
1. What is Stelara (ustekinumab) used for?
Stelara is primarily used to treat plaque psoriasis in individuals six years old and above. However, it has also been approved to treat psoriatic arthritis in adults and is often used in conjunction with methotrexate (an immune system suppressant commonly used to treat autoimmune diseases). Stelara is also often used in treating moderate to severe Crohn’s disease in adults when other drugs have been ineffective. In some cases, Stelara has also been used to treat ulcerative colitis.
2. How to inject Stelara (ustekinumab)?
Patients often wonder how to best inject Stelara themselves. However, it is important to note that you should not attempt to give any injections without first speaking with your doctor. If your doctor has decided that at-home injections are the best route, then the following video from John Hopkins Rheumatology provides helpful step by step instructions and demonstration.
If you have any questions or concerns about self-injecting Stelara, you should speak to your doctor.
3. How long does it take for Stelara to work?
If you or a loved one have been prescribed Stelara, you are almost certainly wondering when you can expect to see results. Depending on the condition being treated, the time it will take to notice results can vary. However, the majority of patients report noticing some improvement within three weeks of their first Stelara dose. Below are more details for the different conditions Stelara is used to treat:
- Psoriasis – Around three-quarters of patients taking Stelara for psoriasis achieved a PASI75 (a 75% reduction of symptoms) within twelve weeks of treatment.
- Psoriatic Arthritis – After six months of treatment, 50% of patients reported an ACR20 (a 20% reduction in symptoms) and 15% reported and ACR70 (70% reduction in symptoms.)
- Crohn’s Disease – After three weeks, 50% of patients achieved CDAI70 (a 70% reduction in symptoms) and after forty-four weeks, 47% of patients were in clinical remission.
- Ulcerative Colitis – After eight weeks, 24% of patients achieved clinical remission and by week forty-four 45% of patients achieved clinical remission.
4. What are the side effects of Stelara (ustekinumab)?
Just like any other medicine, Stelara produces a range of possible side effects. We have listed below the most common side effects. Oftentimes they are nothing to be worried about, but you should check with your doctor immediately if you experience any of them as they can require medical attention.
- Redness, bruising, or itchiness at the site of injection
- Stuffy nose, sore throat, or sneezing
- Stomach pain
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Upper respiratory infection
More serious, but rare, potential side effects include non-melanoma skin cancer and herpes zoster (shingles).
Allergic reaction – In some rare cases, patients can experience allergic reactions. Seek emergency medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms after taking Stelara.
- Skin rash
- Tightness in the throat or chest
- Difficulty talking or breathing
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
This is not a complete list of the possible side effects of Stelara. For more information, you should speak to your doctor or read the patient information label.
5. What should I avoid while taking Stelara?
Due to the nature of Stelara and its immunosuppressant effects, patients taking it should take precautions. It is important to avoid being near people with sickness or infection if possible as Stelara will make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection. It is also important to avoid taking “live” vaccines. Even non-live vaccines can potentially be less effective if administered while taking Stelara so it's important to be up to date on all immunizations before beginning treatment.
There are also drug interactions to be careful of. We’ve listed some of the most common, but this is not a complete list and you should speak to your doctor about any other drugs you are taking before beginning treatment with Stelara.
- Live Vaccines
6. Can I drink alcohol while taking Stelara?
There is not a known interaction between Stelara (ustekinumab) and alcohol. However, methotrexate, a drug commonly prescribed alongside Stelara can interact with alcohol and damage the liver. In general, it’s considered to be safe as long as you consume less than 14 units per week but it’s still a good idea to talk with your doctor if you plan to drink while taking Stelara.
7. How long does Stelara stay in your system?
Due to some of the side effects and interactions of Stelara, it is common for patients to wonder how long it remains in the body. The answer will vary depending on how long patients have been taking Stelara. Typically, it takes between two to nine months before most traces of the drug have left the body. Speak to your doctor if you are looking for a closer estimate on how long Stelara will remain within your system.
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