FDA Issues Warning for Some Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Drugs

TNF Blockers May Boost Kids' Cancer Risk

Peer Reviewed

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that a class of drugs commonly used to treat juvenile Idiopathic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis may increase the risk of some cancers, such as lymphoma, in children and young adults.
teenager holding a leaflet in the Doctor's officeThe announcement comes after a 2008 FDA investigation on the potential connection between tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers and cancer in children. The FDA reviewed approximately 30 reports involving children and young adults who had been taking TNF blockers and then developed cancer.

After analyzing the findings, the FDA found a definitive association between childhood and adolescent cancers and the use of TNF blockers.

TNF blockers already carry labels alerting patients to potential adverse affects, including increased risk of developing an infection or cancer. But in response to the findings, the FDA has mandated that TNF blockers now carry a revised "black box" label that warns doctors and patients about the potential cancer risk specifically in children.

TNF blockers are prescribed for a number of inflammatory conditions, most notably juvenile idiopathic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. The drugs suppress the immune system by interfering with a protein that causes inflammation and immune system disorders. Well-known TNF blockers include etanercept (marketed as Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira), and infliximab (Remicade).

Despite this new warning, the FDA asserts that TNF blockers can be beneficial in managing inflammatory disorders. Always discuss any concerns you have about your drugs and medications with your doctor. He or she will help weigh the risks and benefits and determine the best treatment option for you.

Note: Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) was previously known as Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).

Updated on: 05/31/17
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Update to FDA Warning: Some Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Drugs Not Linked to Cancer Risk
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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Update to FDA Warning: Some Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Drugs Not Linked to Cancer Risk

Regarding common drugs prescribed to treat juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the FDA warning did not acknowledge the impact of these medications on cancer risk, or that JIA alone increases cancer risk.
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