The recently approved arthritis drug, Enbrel (etanercept) may increase the chance of potentially life-threatening infections in some patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a warning issued May 12 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Enbrel was approved in November of 1998. The drug, a genetically engineered protein, was approved for the treatment of moderate to severe, active rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The FDA notes that the drug is known to suppress tumor necrosis factor, an important infection-fighting protein produced by immune system cells. Of an estimated 25,000 people given the drug, 30 have developed serious infections and 6 have died. Although people with rheumatoid arthritis are prone to infections, and many of the patients had a history of chronic infections, the deaths occurred within 2 to 16 weeks after starting treatment with Enbrel.
COMMENT: I treat many rheumatoid arthritis patients and some have previously asked me about this treatment. I have always told them that this is a very expensive treatment and have advised patients against this treatment. Although it clearly is a natural product, we have previous similar expensive natural treatments like interferon for MS which have not been helpful. Forcing the body to have tumor necrosis factor when it did not make will almost always worsen the original problem. Now this information confirms my earlier suspicions that Enbrel should clearly be avoided. The major goal would be to heal the body to help it to produce its own tumor necrosis factor.