Tumour necrosis factor antagonists and the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic literature review

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2011 Mar;50(3):518-31. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq316. Epub 2010 Nov 11.


Objectives: RA is associated with early ischaemic heart disease. This appears to be driven largely by the presence of chronic inflammation. Studies suggest that treatment with disease-modifying drugs such as MTX may reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events in RA. Anti-TNF therapies significantly reduce inflammation in RA. However, the extent to which these agents also reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) is uncertain. The purpose of this study was to explore the effect of anti-TNF agents on CVD in RA using a systematic literature review.

Methods: We searched for studies of adults with RA treated with TNF antagonists where cardiovascular outcomes were recorded using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Database, Database of Abstracts and Reviews of Effects, Health Technology Appraisal, Science Citation Index and Clinical Evidence from 1989 to 2010. Conference proceedings for the British Society of Rheumatology, ACR and EULAR between 2005 and 2009 were hand searched. Two reviewers assessed abstracts for inclusion and then quality of selected papers was assessed.

Results: A total of 1840 abstracts were identified and 20 articles were suitable for inclusion. Information was obtained on the effect of TNF antagonists on overall CVD events, myocardial infarction, strokes and heart failure.

Conclusion: In many studies, TNF antagonists appear to reduce the likelihood of CVD in individuals with RA. Reassuringly, there does not appear to be an increased risk of cardiac failure. However, the reduction in CVD is not as consistently seen as with studies of MTX.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Lymphotoxin-beta / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Lymphotoxin-beta