Tofacitinib: Uses, Side Effects

Tofacitinib blocks the activity of certain enzymes in the body that affect immune system function.

Tofacitinib is used to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis or active psoriatic arthritis in adults who have tried methotrexate other medications without successful treatment of symptoms. Tofacitinib is sometimes given in combination with methotrexate or other arthritis medicines.

Tofacitinib is also used to treat adults with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis.

Tofacitinib may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not use tofacitinib if you have a serious infection. Before you start treatment, your doctor may perform tests to make sure you do not have an infection.

Tofacitinib affects your immune system. You may get infections more easily, even serious or fatal infections. Call your doctor if you have a fever, chills, aches, tiredness, cough, skin sores, diarrhea, weight loss, or burning when you urinate.

If you’ve ever had hepatitis B, using tofacitinib can cause this virus to become active or get worse. Tell your doctor if you don’t feel well and you have right-sided upper stomach pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, or yellowing of your skin or eyes.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use tofacitinib if you are allergic to it, or if you have any kind of infection.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • liver disease (especially hepatitis B or C);
  • a chronic infection;
  • any type of cancer;
  • a stomach or intestinal problem such as diverticulitis or an ulcer;
  • kidney disease (or if you are on dialysis);
  • diabetes; or
  • if you are scheduled to receive any vaccine.

Tell your doctor if you have ever had tuberculosis or if anyone in your household has tuberculosis. Also tell your doctor if you have recently traveled. Tuberculosis and some fungal infections are more common in certain parts of the world, and you may have been exposed during travel.

Using tofacitinib may increase your risk of developing certain cancers, such as lymphoma or skin cancer. Ask your doctor about this risk.

It is not known whether tofacitinib will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Tofacitinib may affect your ability to have children during treatment and in the future.

If you are pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry to track the effects of tofacitinib on the baby.

It is not safe to breast-feed a baby while you are using this medicine. Also do not breast-feed for at least 18 hours after your last dose (36 hours if you take extended-release tablets). If you use a breast pump during this time, do not feed the milk to your baby.

Side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

You may get infections more easily, even serious or fatal infections. Call your doctor right away if you have signs of infection such as:

  • fever, chills, sweating;
  • skin sores;
  • tiredness, muscle pain;
  • increased urination, pain or burning when you urinate;
  • stomach pain, diarrhea, weight loss; or
  • cough, shortness of breath, coughing up pink or red mucus.

Further doses may be delayed until your infection clears up.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • low red blood cells (anemia)–pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet;
  • signs of hepatitis–loss of appetite, vomiting, stomach pain (upper right side), fever, tiredness, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
  • shingles–burning pain, numbness, tingling, itching, skin rash or blisters;
  • signs of perforation (a hole or tear) in your stomach or intestines–fever, ongoing stomach pain, change in bowel habits; or
  • signs of tuberculosis: fever, cough, night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss, and feeling very tired.

Common side effects may include:

  • skin rash, shingles;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • abnormal blood tests;
  • headache;
  • diarrhea; or
  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

What other drugs will affect tofacitinib?

Sometimes it is not safe to use certain medications at the same time. Some drugs can affect your blood levels of other drugs you take, which may increase side effects or make the medications less effective.

Tell your doctor about all your current medicines. Many drugs can affect tofacitinib, especially:

  • azathioprine;
  • cyclosporine;
  • tuberculosis medicine; or
  • other drugs to arthritis or ulcerative colitis–abatacept, adalimumab, anakinra, certolizumab, etanercept, golimumab, infliximab, rituximab, secukinumab, tocilizumab, ustekinumab, vedolizumab.

This list is not complete, and many other drugs may affect tofacitinib. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.


Keyword: tofacitinib.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.