Anti-TNF drugs target a substance in the bloodstream known as TNF-alpha (TNF is short for tumor necrosis factor). Overproduction of TNF-alpha has been linked to several inflammatory diseases, including Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Anti-TNF drugs block tumor necrosis factor-alpha activity by binding it to cell membranes and blood cells.
Infliximab: The First Anti-TNF Drug Approved for Crohn’s
Anti-TNF drugs have been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis for some time, but only recently has an anti-TNF been approved to treat Crohn’s. Infliximab (RemicadeÂ®) is genetically designed to block the TNF activity associated with the disease.
In May 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Remicade for use in children with Crohn’s disease. This is good news, as treatment options have been inadequate for pediatric Crohn’s patients with moderate to severe symptoms that have not responded to conventional treatments.
Infliximab reduces the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, most notably inflammation. In addition, infliximab reduces the number of fistulas (abnormal connections between the intestine and other organs) in cases of fistulizing Crohn’s disease. The fistulas often close up when treated with infliximab.
If you are considering infliximab, you should inform your health professional if you are pregnant, or plan to become so. If you have heart problems or nervous system disorders, discuss how infliximab may affect your condition. Let your doctor know if you have ever had tuberculosis, or lived in areas where tuberculosis is common.
Allergies and Infliximab
As with any medication, inform your doctor of any allergies you may have prior to starting treatment with infliximab. Include food, preservative and environmental allergies as well as drug allergies. Don’t be surprised if your health care professional asks if you’re allergic to rodents; this is because mouse cells are used to produce infliximab.
Side Effects and Cautions
Like any other medication, infliximab has side effects that must be considered. The potential for serious infection is one of the most serious complications that can occur. Upper respiratory infections, including tuberculosis, are more likely to occur while taking infliximab. Organ sepsis (bacterial infection) is also more likely.
Other side effects include the following:
- breathing difficulties
- low blood pressure
- chest pain
- skin rashes
- itchy skin.
Check with your health care professional for a complete list of possible side effects.
Centocor, Inc. (2002). REMICADE for Crohn’s disease.
Centocor, Inc. (nd). Treatment for Crohn’s disease.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2003, January). Crohn’s disease [NIH Publication No. 03-3410].
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2006, May 19). FDA approves Remicade for children with Crohn’s disease. FDA News.