A federally funded research study raises questions about previous evidence that Humira, Enbrel, and other commonly used auto-immune disorder drugs cause infections.
The Food and Drug Administration, along with other health agencies, paid for the study led by Dr. Carlos Grijalva, of Vanderbilt University.
Grijalva said the findings “should be reassuring for patients and providers.”
Dr. David Felson, of Boston University School of Medicine, said proof of significantly reduced risks of infections is a “very new and heretical idea.”
Caution still should be heeded, Felson said.
“We still need to be concerned about serious infection risk among patients starting these medicines,” he told CNN.
Auto-immune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory-bowel disease. Those conditions generally are treated with tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, which came on the market in the late 1990s. TNF inhibitors work by suppressing the immune system in patients, which can lead to infections.
Out of 32,000 people whose cases were studied, about 1,200 developed serious infections. The patients were taking either TNF inhibitors or older drugs, including leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine. Researchers found that patients who took the TNF inhibitors for one year had no more risk of developing an infection than those who took the older medication.
One side note: Researchers concluded patients with rheumatoid arthritis who took the TNF inhibitor Remicade were exposed to a 25-percent higher risk of infection than those who took Humira or Enbrel.