Arthritis meds may increase likelihood of dying from lung fungus?

The Food and Drug Administration ordered stronger warnings about the risk of potentially deadly fungal infections on four medications widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other serious illnesses. The FDA has received 240 reports of patients taking such drugs as Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade, known as TNF-alpha blockers, who said the drug lowered the body’s defense to infections. Overall, 45 patients died. They developed histoplasmosis, a fungal infection which spreads throughout the body.

The drugs work by suppressing the immune system to keep it from attacking the body and they are approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis and Crohn’s disease. But the treatment can leave patients vulnerable to other complications, or diseases.

“FDA has asked the manufacturers of these four drug products to highlight existing warnings of fungal infections,” Dr. Jeffrey Siegel, clinical team leader at the FDA…He added that the box warning must be upgraded to “strongly warn doctors to consider the occurrence of histoplasmosis and other fungal infections.”

The agency is also investigating a possible link between the four medications and cancer in young patients. The FDA had received 30 reports of cancers, mainly lymphomas, in patients who began taking the medications when they were 18 or younger. The agency said it has a six-month timeline for the review. “We intend to meet that timeline,” Siegel said.

Scary stuff. Once again, you have to question the thoroughness of FDA pre-release testing.

2 thoughts on “Arthritis meds may increase likelihood of dying from lung fungus?

  1. Mary W says:

    I have been taking one of these medications for about 8 years. I am 45 years old, I have had RA since I was 22. Until Enbrel came out the drugs that we had for treatment of RA were simply not sufficient. Enbrel is the oldest of these medicines but they all have been around for a while now. They are the new cutting edge of treatment and they are improving people’s lives immenssely. There are many, many people taking these medications, 45 deaths seems like a small number considering, these issues are not new, these types of risks have been known and disclosed. Although it is good to know about even the slight risks it is also important to see the whole picture. People who have RA to the degree that they need these drugs are very effected by the disease and the benefits will probably always outweigh these risks as the life we could lead without them is not good and in some cases unbearable. Rheumatoid Arthritis itself will shorten a lifespan by 10 years and significantly limit the life lived so this needs to be remembered.

  2. diane t says:

    I have been on enbrel for 3 months taken off 2 weeks,
    ago. i have fungi condition. and first thing first
    a lung condition a specialist will have to tell me.
    on enbrel the R A was painless

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