Anti-TNF therapy: safety aspects of taking the risk

Autoimmun Rev. 2011 Jul;10(9):563-8. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2011.04.010. Epub 2011 May 5.


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) therapy has been revolutionized in recent years following the introduction of three main anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors (anti-TNF) agents, infliximab, adalimumab and etanercept. Evidence in the literature indicates that patients treated with anti-TNF agents are at increased risk for bacterial infections, but it is not clear if this is a result of the treatment or of disease severity. The treatment has been recognized as a clear risk factor for reactivation of latent TB infections. So far, observational studies have not indicated any increased overall risk of cancer in RA patients treated with anti-TNF. The overall risk of lymphoma in these patients does not appear to differ greatly from that recorded among untreated patients, but rather is associated with the degree of disease activity rather than the type of therapy. There is a consensus in the literature that the likelihood of drug survival with infliximab is inferior to both adalimumab and etanercept, mostly due to increased risk of infection or allergic reactions. Due to the lack of head to head studies, there is no agreement as to which agent has the highest rates of treatment response and disease remission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infections / etiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha