Newer Drugs Help RA Patients Live Longer

Downside to Biologics Is Lower Immunity, Increased Risk of Shingles, Others Find

WebMD.com—June 8, 2012

Rheumatoid arthritis patients who take medications known as anti-TNFs may be treating more than their disease.

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In one study, researchers reported an increased risk of getting shingles while on the anti-TNF drugs. The often painful condition is caused by the herpes zoster virus in adults.

RA & RA Drugs
About 1.3 million Americans have RA, in which inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissue can cause pain and stiffness.

Drugs known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are typically prescribed first.

If they don't give enough relief, other drugs, including anti-TNFs, are often added.

Anti-TNF drugs belong to a class known as biologics, which are designed to inhibit parts of the immune system that cause inflammation.

RA, Biologics, & Shingles Risk
For the shingles study, Helene Che of the Lapeyronie Hospital in Montpellier re-evaluated 22 published studies and 28 abstracts.

Patients were on DMARDs and biologics.

Those on anti-TNFs had a 75% higher risk of getting shingles than those on DMARDs.

Perspectives on Biologics for RA

Vivian Bykerk, MD, a rheumatologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, reviewed the findings. She put the shingles risk in perspective.

While 75% may sound like a large increase, Bykerk says it "would still be less than double a small number."

Patients considering the shingles vaccine should get it before they start the anti-TNFs, she says.

Read the full story at webmd.com.

 

 

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