WebMD.com—June 8, 2012
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
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.
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