Published: 08-08-2012 00:00 | Updated: 09-06-2015 11:05

No difference in death rates with biologic medication for rheumatoid arthritis

New research confirms no significant difference in the rates of death among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who were treated with one of several TNF inhibitors, adalimumab (Humira), etanercept (Enbrel), and infliximab (Remicade).

This population-based study of RA patients in Sweden – the first to compare mortality rates among patients treated with individual TNF inhibitors – is published in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

RA is a chronic, autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation in the joints that causes pain, tenderness and swelling. The World Health Organization estimates that RA affects up to one percent of individuals worldwide, with more than one million Americans diagnosed with the disease according to the ACR. Rheumatologists recommend early intervention with biologic disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as TNF inhibitors to slow disease progression, improve function, and prevent disability.

In Sweden nearly 15% of RA patients are prescribed TNF inhibitors. The present study examined the mortality rates in Swedish RA patients exposed to adalimumab, etanercept, or infliximab.

"Understanding risk versus benefits of treatment with the most commonly prescribed biologics is important for physicians and patients in managing RA," said lead author Dr. Julia Fridman Simard.

"While we found no statistically significant difference in mortality rates across the three biologic therapies, further studies are needed to determine if this is true across certain subsets of patients with RA," concludes Dr. Simard.


Mortality rates in patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with tumor necrosis factor inhibitors: drug-specific comparisons in the Swedish Biologics Register.
Simard J, Neovius M, Askling J,
Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Nov;64(11):3502-10