Rheumatoid arthritis, vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis

It can be difficult to weigh the benefits against the risks of medicines that are used to treat dreadful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. On the one hand, having a way to ease pain and permit more mobility is a great benefit. But it may sometimes come with significant hidden costs.

We have written before about the balancing act for statins: they may prevent second or third heart attacks, but they can also contribute to a range of problems from cataracts and diabetes to peripheral neuropathy.

The balance for the medicines called TNF-alpha blockers is even more difficult. These powerful drugs dampen an overactive immune system to alleviate suffering from auto-immune disorders. But an immune system that isn’t functioning properly may fail to detect infections, which can then rage out of control. Even more frightening, they may not be able to eliminate cancer. Drugs such as adalimumab (Humira), certolizumab (Cimzia), golimumab (Symponi) or infliximab (Remicade) are reported to cause lymphoma as a side effect.

Lymphoma as a Side Effect of Remicade:

Q. You have written about the FDA warning that Remicade might lead to lymphoma. I am here to say first-hand that Remicade caused lymphoma. It can be fatal in certain cases. Before risking this drug, find out all about the side effects and make sure your doctor monitors you closely.

A. Infliximab (Remicade) is used to treat serious auto-immune diseases such as ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and severe psoriasis. The FDA warns that this and similar medications could lead to malignancies like lymphoma.

Be sure to discuss the benefits and risks thoroughly with the prescribing physician before accepting a prescription. Know what signs of trouble to watch for and make sure the physician is ready to monitor your progress.

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  1. GW
    So Cal

    It would be great if the chance of developing lymphoma were explained to the patient. If the chances are very rare (e.g. 1 in 1,000,000) then the “rewards” of the drug treatment may outweigh the “risks.” This decision should be in the hands of an informed patient and not dictated by a busy doctor whose answer to the “what about the risks/ side effects?” question is always “they are very rare.”

  2. Sherry
    Waxhaw NC

    My daughter has Crohns and fistulas. She was diagnosed at age 40 but the fistulas didn’t develop until 2 years later. She has refused any meds due to reading the side effects. She is scared. Scared what will happen if she doesn’t take them, scared what will happen if she does. The drs all want her to start the Remaicade. They tell her the risks, but again relay they are “very rare”. It is a terrible situation to be in.

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