The benefit/risk profile of TNF-blocking agents: findings of a consensus panel

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2005 Jun;34(6):819-36. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2004.11.006.


Objective: To review the benefits and risks associated with the use of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-blockers in various indications (eg, rheumatoid arthritis [RA], Crohn's disease [CD], psoriasis).

Methods: The members of the consensus panel were selected based on their expertise. Centocor, Inc provided an educational grant to the Center for Health Care Education to facilitate the consensus panel. Peer-reviewed articles discussing clinical studies and clinical experiences with TNF-blockers form the basis of this review. Emerging data that have not been peer-reviewed are also included.

Results: The TNF-blockers infliximab, etanercept, and adalimumab are all approved for treatment of RA. All 3 are effective, and there are currently no published data from head-to-head clinical trials to support using 1 agent over another. Preliminary data from small, retrospective studies indicate that switching among agents to overcome inadequate efficacy or poor tolerability is beneficial in some patients. The only TNF-blocker currently approved for the induction and maintenance of remission in CD is infliximab. Preliminary data indicate that etanercept and infliximab are effective in treating psoriasis. Some risks associated with TNF-blockers have become apparent, including congestive heart failure, demyelinating diseases, and systemic lupus erythematosus, but in most cases can be identified and managed. Several of these risks (eg, lymphoma and serious infections) are associated with either the condition per se or the concomitant medication use. Simple screening procedures help manage the risk of tuberculosis infection; however, it is recommended that physicians and patients be alert to the development of any new infection so that appropriate treatment may be initiated promptly. Rare infusion reactions, particularly with infliximab, may also be effectively managed.

Conclusion: TNF-blockers are effective and may be safely used for short- and long-term management of RA or CD. TNF-blockers also show efficacy in other emerging indications.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adalimumab
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Etanercept
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / adverse effects
  • Infliximab
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Rheumatic Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab
  • Adalimumab
  • Etanercept