FDA: TNF-alpha blockers associated with risk of fungal infections

The FDA ( Food and Drug Administration ) has announced that the manufacturers of Humira ( Adalimumab ), Cimzia ( Certolizumab pegol ), Enbrel ( Etanercept ), and Remicade ( Infliximab ) must strengthen the existing warnings, in the Warnings and Precaution sections of the drugs' prescribing information and Medication Guides, on the risk of developing opportunistic fungal infections. Some patients with invasive fungal infections have died.

The four drugs, known as tumor necrosis factor alpha blockers ( TNF-alpha blockers ), which suppress the immune system, are approved to treat a variety of conditions which may include rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, plaque psoriasis, ankylosing spondylitis, and Crohn's disease.

Since the initial approval of the four TNF blockers, the prescribing information for these drugs has included information about the risk of serious infections, including fungal infections. However, based on reports reviewed by FDA, health care professionals are not consistently recognizing cases of histoplasmosis and other invasive fungal infections, leading to delays in treatment.

Patients taking TNF blockers should be aware that they are more susceptible to serious fungal infections. Those who develop a persistent fever, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue should promptly seek medical attention.

FDA has reviewed 240 reports of histoplasmosis, an infection caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, in patients being treated with Enbrel, Humira, or Remicade. In at least 21 of the reports, histoplasmosis was initially not recognized by health care professionals, and antifungal treatment was delayed. Twelve of those patients died.

The FDA reviewed one reported case of histoplasmosis in a patient taking Cimzia. The FDA also has received reports of cases of coccidioidomycosis and blastomycosis, including deaths, in patients treated with TNF blockers.

Source: FDA, 2008


Link: Xapedia - Medical Encyclopedia