Drug-specific risk of tuberculosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with anti-TNF therapy: results from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register (BSRBR)

W G Dixon, K L Hyrich, K D Watson, M Lunt, J Galloway, A Ustianowski, D P M Symmons
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2010, 69 (3): 522-8

BACKGROUND: The risk of tuberculosis (TB) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is thought to be increased following anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) therapy, with a proposed differential risk between the anti-TNF drugs etanercept (ETA), infliximab (INF) and adalimumab (ADA).

OBJECTIVE: To compare directly the risk between drugs, to explore time to event, site of infection and the role of ethnicity.

METHODS: Data from the British Society for Rheumatology Biologics Register (BSRBR), a national prospective observational study, were used to compare TB rates in 10 712 anti-TNF treated patients (3913 ETA, 3295 INF, 3504 ADA) and 3232 patients with active RA treated with traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs.

RESULTS: To April 2008, 40 cases of TB were reported, all in the anti-TNF cohort. The rate of TB was higher for the monoclonal antibodies ADA (144 events/100,000 person-years) and INF (136/100,000 person-years) than for ETA (39/100,000 person-years). After adjustment, the incidence rate ratio compared with ETA-treated patients was 3.1 (95% CI 1.0 to 9.5) for INF and 4.2 (1.4 to 12.4) for ADA. The median time to event was lowest for INF (5.5 months) compared with ETA (13.4 months) and ADA (18.5 months). 13/40 cases occurred after stopping treatment. 25/40 (62%) cases were extrapulmonary, of which 11 were disseminated. Patients of non-white ethnicity had a sixfold increased risk of TB compared with white patients treated with anti-TNF therapy.

CONCLUSION: The rate of TB in patients with RA treated with anti-TNF therapy was three- to fourfold higher in patients receiving INF and ADA than in those receiving ETA.

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