Posted to findingDulcinea by Cara McDonough
Enbrel, Remicade, Humira and Cimzia are drugs that provide relief from the swollen and painful joints associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The problem, however, is that the drugs work by suppressing the immune system to keep it from attacking the body, which means they make people more susceptible to various infections, the Associated Press reports.
Dr. Jeffrey Siegel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the agency recently became concerned when 240 cases of a fungal infection called histoplasmosis surfaced in people taking the arthritis drugs, resulting in 45 deaths.
The news comes on the heels of the announcement of an FDA investigation of a possible cancer link with the FDA-approved cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin.
Histoplasmosis, which attacks the respiratory system but can spread to other organs leading to fatal consequences, has symptoms like the flu. So not only is it difficult to diagnose, but may be caught too late.
The FDA has issued a warning about histoplasmosis to healthcare professionals on its Web site, noting that the infection is not “consistently recognized” in patients taking the drugs.
Siegal said that the FDA warning means the risk of the fungal infection will be listed in a “black box,” which is “the strongest warning information in a drug’s prescribing literature.”
Patients who take any of the four arthritis drugs and exhibit any signs of histoplasmosis, including persistent fever, cough, shortness of breath or fatigue, are urged to call their doctor.
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