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Biologics for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

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Biologics for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Biologics block harmful responses from the body's immune system that lead to the symptoms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Why It Is Used

Biologics are used to treat moderate to severe JIA symptoms and to prevent joint damage, particularly in people who have had side effects or poor results from methotrexate treatment.

Biologics are usually used after nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and methotrexate have been tried. A biologic is often used at the same time as these other medicines, especially to treat polyarticular JIA and extended oligoarticular JIA.1

Biologics may also be tried when eye inflammation has not improved after trying other drugs such as corticosteroids and mydriatics.

How Well It Works

Etanercept is most widely studied for juvenile idiopathic arthritis. In general, biologics improve symptoms, help prevent bone and cartilage damage, and may even help with healing.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

Call your doctor right away if your child has:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Warnings about serious side effects of biologics have been issued. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the drug's manufacturers have warned about:

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Weiss JR, Ilowite NT (2005). Juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 52(2): 413–442.

  2. Soep JB (2011). Rheumatic diseases. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 825–831. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits for Biologics for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised June 5, 2012

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