Arthritis: Reports from 2003 Arthritis Meeting (cont.)

Below are perspectives on key research reports presented at the recent national meeting of the American College of Rheumatology:

Remicade (infliximab)

Remicade (infliximab) is an antibody that blocks the effects of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha). TNF-alpha is a substance made by cells of the body that has an important role in promoting inflammation. TNF promotes the inflammation and its associated fever and signs (pain, tenderness, and swelling) in several inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. By blocking the action of TNF-alpha, infliximab reduces the signs and symptoms of inflammation and stops the progression of joint damage. Remicade is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and other serious forms of inflammation such as uveitis, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Remicade is given by intravenous infusion over approximately 2 hours, usually every 4-8 weeks.

British researchers found that Remicade infusions could be safely administered at faster rates after the first 4 infusions if no reactions were noted in the first infusions. They also noted that stopping and restarting Remicade as a treatment did not result in any increase in toxicity.

Dr. Shiel's Perspective: Exciting news for patients already using Remicade. It appears that they may not require the usual 2 hour rate of infusion after taking 4 doses of Remicade without side effects. Theoretically, Remicade might have the potential to cause sensitization. So that if Remicade were stopped and restarted at a much later date, there could be an increased chance of allergic reaction. However according to this research, if, for whatever reason, Remicade treatment is interrupted, resumption of the drug at a later time does not come with an increased chance for an infusion reaction!