TNF-α Antagonist and Infection in Rheumatoid Arthritis


Background: Anti-TNF treatment may increase infection risk, although this has been difficult to study because the timing of anti-TNF treatment is driven by disease activity, which may influence infection susceptibility leading to confounding that varies over time. We evaluated the association between anti-TNF initiation in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients on disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD) and infection using multiple approaches adjusting for time-varying confounding. Methods: 383 anti-TNF-na?ve RA patients on ≥ 1 non-biologic-DMARD at enrollment from the Brigham and Women’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Sequential Study (BRASS) were followed up to two years. Pooled logistic regressions estimated the association between anti-TNF and infection by including time-varying covariates in the adjusted models and inverse probability treatment weighting (IPTW). Results: Adjustment for time-varying disease activity and other suspected confounders yielded non-statistically significant positive associations between anti-TNF start and infection regardless of analytic approach (RRmvar_adj = 2.1, 95% CI: 0.8 - 5.8). Conclusions: Incorporating changing clinical status, and treatment indications and consequences, yielded consistently (though not significantly) elevated relative risks of infection associated with anti-TNF initiation. Due to limited statistical power, we cannot draw firm conclusions. However, we have illustrated multiple approaches adjusting for potential time-varying confounding in longitudinal studies and hope to replicate the approaches in larger studies.

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J. Simard, M. Mittleman, N. Shadick and E. Karlson, "TNF-α Antagonist and Infection in Rheumatoid Arthritis," Open Journal of Rheumatology and Autoimmune Diseases, Vol. 2 No. 2, 2012, pp. 14-20. doi: 10.4236/ojra.2012.22004.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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