10 Tips to Prepare for an RA Infusion


Beth W. Orenstein

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Doctor talking with patient

If you doctor prescribed biologics for your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treatment, you may need to have the drug administered intravenously. That means you will get them by IV infusion, directly into your bloodstream through a vein in your arm or hand. You might get an infusion at your doctor’s office, an outpatient department of a hospital, a local infusion center, or through a home health care service.

Your doctor will help you select the best option for you and give you a schedule for your treatments. You may go more frequently in the beginning and less often when you’re on maintenance.

These tips will help you prepare during the days leading up to your infusion:

1. Get educated. The more you know about what to expect, the more comfortable you will be. Ask your doctor for literature from the drug manufacturer and read it carefully so you know the possible risks and side effects to watch for. Visit the drug’s website for more information. Make a list of any questions you still have about the medication and its possible side effects and ask your doctor for the answers before your first scheduled infusion.

2. Get any needed pretreatment tests. Infusion drugs work by suppressing select pathways within your immune system. It’s important to be tested for tuberculosis before your treatment begins. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis can be dormant in your body, but they could become activated if you suppress your immune system. That’s also true of the hepatitis B infection, which is a virus that affects the liver. Symptoms of hepatitis B include fatigue, yellow-tinged skin or eyes, vomiting, fever, muscle aches, and dark urine. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

3. Practice birth control. These powerful RA drugs can have serious negative effects on a developing fetus. Be sure you’re not pregnant before starting the treatment and don’t get pregnant while you're on them. If you're planning to get pregnant, you must delay the infusion treatments.

4. Find out about your health insurance coverage. Some drug infusions can cost several thousand dollars a month. Check with your insurance company to see if you're covered and what your co-pays are, if any. Many drug companies offer financial assistance to help eligible patients afford their biologic. Your RA team can help determine your eligibility.

5. Tell your RA doctor about all medications you're taking. Make a list of your prescription drugs, vitamins, dietary supplements, and herbal remedies. Show the list to your health care provider to be sure everything is compatible with the infusion drug.

6. Get a good night's sleep the night before. You want to be well rested and in good shape for your infusion.

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