Safety of anti-rheumatic drugs in men trying to conceive: A systematic review and analysis of published evidence

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2019 Apr;48(5):911-920. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2018.07.011. Epub 2018 Aug 17.


There is limited evidence relating to the impact of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) upon male fertility and peri-conception paternal exposure in men with rheumatic disease. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review of available evidence to update information on this subject and guide paternal counselling. A systematic search of PubMed and Embase was carried out up to September 2017, to find relevant peer-reviewed papers, using keywords for fertility/spermatogenesis/conception, men, and disease modifying or biologic drugs commonly prescribed in patients with rheumatic disease. The search yielded 724 papers, and the titles/abstracts were screened independently by 2 authors, duplicates removed and 233 potentially relevant papers selected for full text review. A total of 84 papers were included in the final analysis which covered the impact on fertility of over 611 male exposures to relevant drugs, and over 5986 pregnancies conceived during paternal exposure to (or within 3 months of stopping) these drugs. Aside from the known adverse impact of cyclophosphamide and sulfasalazine on spermatogenesis, overall there was no firm evidence of harm to fertility or pregnancy outcomes with paternal exposure to anti-TNF therapies, abatacept, rituximab, azathioprine, cyclosporine A, hydroxychloroquine, leflunomide, methotrexate or mycophenolate mofetil. There was no evidence found pertaining to the effects of male exposure to IVIG, tacrolimus, golimumab, anakinra or belimumab on fertility or pregnancy outcomes. These results provide further reassurance as to the safety of many DMARDs for men trying to conceive and will be useful when counselling men about risks of anti-rheumatic drugs to fertility and pregnancies, and following accidental conception.

Keywords: Biologic agents; Conception; DMARDS; Male fertility; Paternal exposure; Pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Biological Products / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Paternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology
  • Rheumatic Diseases / drug therapy


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Biological Products