This common medicine can make the COVID-19 vaccine less effective

There’s a new warning out about a common drug prescribed for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Medication that contains the ingredient, infliximab, may make the COVID-19 vaccine less effective. The news comes from a new study recently published in the British Medical Journal.

Infliximab is a biologic drug usually prescribed for patients with autoimmune diseases. Because these types of biologics suppress the immune system, they can reduce a vaccine's effectiveness. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies, the proteins that fight specific infections.

Approximately 500,000 people in the UK live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), while there are about 1.6 million in the US. In 2019, the FDA approved AVSOLA (infliximab-axxq), an IV infusion medication, for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. It has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation, which is a reason why providers feel comfortable prescribing the drug.

According to the study, researchers in the UK measured the antibody responses in patients inoculated with either with the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccines in 865 people being specifically treated with infliximab. After a single dose of the vaccine, only about one-third of participants generated enough antibodies to the coronavirus for the vaccine to be considered effective.

Researchers are urging people who are taking infliximab to make sure they receive two shots of their COVID-19 vaccines. It’s also important to follow the CDC guidelines of wearing masks indoors and avoiding large crowds until fully inoculated.