On March 6, 2013 encouraging results from a study involving rheumatoid arthritis medications were published. This study, available in the March 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, reassured patients who are taking the newest medications. Results concluded from this particular study revealed that these drugs do not appear to raise the risk of developing shingles.
For over 1.5 million people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis in the United States this news was certainly relieving. The newer medications, like adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel) and rituximab (Rituxan) have long been feared to increase the risk of shingles in patients using these treatments.
As anti-tumor necrosis factor drugs, these newer medications have been assumed to increase the chance of a shingles infection, because they instinctively work by suppressing a part of the patient’s immune system, which can subsequently cause the herpes zoster autoimmune reaction. These fears have now been diffused, according to experts who conducted this extensive study.
One study author, Dr. Kevin Winthrop stated, “These are commonly used drugs for people with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, and the issue was whether or not they increased the risk of [shingles]. We found there is no increased risk when using these drugs, which was reassuring.” Data from almost 60,000 patients with various autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis was presented. Over 33,000 patients were recorded as taking biologic anti-TNF drugs, and roughly 26,000 patients were recorded to be taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). This encompassing study took place over a ten year period from 1998 to 2008. Conclusions made from this decade long study indicated that there was no significant increase in the risk of shingles based on the type of medicine people were taking, with the exception of those patients who were also taking a high dose of corticosteroids.
The vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation, Dr. Patience White, deemed the study results to be “good news”. Now that these medications have been proven to be unlikely to cause the painful and disabling shingles condition, further study and development of these treatments are more welcome than ever.
Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are continuing to be proven safe and effectual. Adalimumab CAS# 331731-18-1, is one of the medications in the biologics class of drugs. Known also as Humira, adalimumab is a specifically protein-based therapy that has been developed through genetic engineering and DNA technology. As a fully human monoclonal antibody, adalimumab binds to the specific protein tumor necrosis factor alpha, or TNFα. The tumor necrosis factor alpha is present in increased levels in patients with inflammatory diseases, and these increased levels appear to attack healthy body tissue and cause inflammation for these patients. By binding to the TNFα adalimumab is efficacious at blocking both the inflammation and pain associated with debilitating diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Another efficacious treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is the monoclonal antibody Rituximab CAS# 174722-31-7. As the only treatment that provides a significant period of symptom improvement, rituximab is now considered to be an efficacious option for patients with RA. One course of treatments, encompassing two infusions of rituximab leads to roughly six months of vast symptom improvement. By targeting B cells, rituximab seeks to remedy the source of the cells believed to play an impressive role in the progress of RA.
Etanercept CAS# 185243-69-0, is also a newer and formidable biologic treatment. Marketed as the trade name Enbrel, etanercept successfully inhibits the progression of structural damage for patients suffering from RA. The advent of innovative and unprecedented medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis has led to greater treatment options for this ever-growing patient population.
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