A recent study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has concluded that rheumatoid arthritis drugs, also known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, do not increase the risk of serious infection when compared with more conventional treatments.
The research, which was funded by the Food and Drug Administration and other federal health agencies, contradicts numerous earlier studies that found that TNF inhibitors as much as double the risk of serious infection compared with other treatment options.
“The possibility that TNF inhibitors such as Humira and Enbrel pose no additional infection risk is a “very new and heretical idea,” explained David T. Felson, M.D., a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Boston University School of Medicine, who cowrote an editorial accompanying the study, CNN reports. “Up until now there has been considerable evidence that anti-TNFs heightened the risk of serious infection compared to other treatments.”
Although the recent findings come as good news to patients taking rheumatoid arthritis drugs, Felson says the results aren’t sufficient to silence concerns raised by the previously conducted studies.
“We still need to be concerned about serious infection risk among patients starting these medicines,” Felson warned, as reported by CNN.
Felson additionaly pointed out that the results of the recent study may be skewed as they failed to take into account that some 40% of participants taking TNF inhibitors dropped out within the first month, compared with only 15% in the comparison group.
In previous trials and in clinical practice, people who stop taking TNF blockers tend to be older and at a higher risk of serious infections – a pattern that may have made rheumatoid arthritis drugs look safer than they really are.