Review article: non-malignant haematological complications of anti-tumour necrosis factor alpha therapy

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Aug;36(4):312-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2012.05189.x. Epub 2012 Jun 24.


Background: Tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) is an important mediator of the molecular cascade leading to chronic inflammation. TNF-α inhibitors have proven their safety and efficacy in the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

Aim: To review the non-malignant haematological adverse events, such as thrombocytopaenia, neutropaenia, hypercoagulability, pancytopaenia and aplastic anaemia in patients receiving TNF-α inhibitors.

Methods: We reviewed the literature by searching MEDLINE and EMBASE databases as well as references of all retrieved articles for the following terms: anti-tumour necrosis factor, anti-TNF, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab, etanercept, haematological complications, thrombocytopaenia, neutropaenia, anaemia, bone marrow and thrombosis.

Results: Thombocytopaenia is a very rare phenomenon and was associated with no serious adverse events. However, transient neutropaenia developed in up to 16% of cases. Patients with a previous history of neutropaenia on other therapies or baseline neutrophil count <4 × 10(9) /L are at a particularly higher risk. The association between anti-TNF-α therapy and thrombosis is very nebulous due to the multitude of potential confounders. Only one case of primary eosinophilia has been reported with anti-TNF-α therapy.

Conclusion: Regular monitoring of the white blood cell count at baseline and with each infusion is recommended for patients on anti-TNF-α. Further studies to elucidate their interaction with the immune system are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / chemically induced
  • Blood Platelet Disorders / chemically induced
  • Eosinophilia / chemically induced
  • Hematologic Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Neutropenia / chemically induced
  • Thrombosis / chemically induced*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / adverse effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha