February 18, 2009
Type of arthritis drug linked to shingles
Use of certain medications for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis appears to be associated with an increased risk for shingles, German researchers said.
Dr. Anja Strangfeld of the German Rheumatism Research Center in Berlin and colleagues investigated the association of various rheumatoid arthritis treatments, including medications that use monoclonal anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha antibodies with the risk of shingles.
The researchers analyzed data from patients who began treatment with adalimumab or infliximab, etanercept, the monotherapeutic agent anakinra, or when patients changed conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug.
Treatment, clinical status and adverse events were assessed by rheumatologists at fixed points during follow-up of up to three years. A total of 5,040 patients were included in the analysis.
There were 86 cases of shingles among 82 patients. Thirty-nine occurrences could be attributed to treatment with anti-TNF-alpha antibodies.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found a significant association between shingles and treatment with the monoclonal anti-TNF-alpha antibodies infliximab and adalimumab, although this risk was lower than the threshold for clinical significance.