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Treatment with TNF blockers and mortality risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Abstract

Objective: To assess mortality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, compared with a standard RA population.

Methods: Patients were recruited from a regional register, which includes over 90% of patients with RA treated with TNF blockers in the area in 1999 or later, and a local community-based cohort of patients with RA, established in 1997. Of a total of 1430 patients in the combined cohort <80 years old, 921 received treatment with TNF inhibitors during the study period. The total cohort was linked with the national register for cause of death. Overall mortality in those treated versus those not treated with TNF blockers was estimated using standardised mortality ratios and time-dependent Cox proportional hazards.

Results: There were 188 deaths per 7077 person-years at risk in the total cohort. Controlling for age, sex, disability and baseline comorbidity, the adjusted HR for death was 0.65 (95% CI 0.46 to 0.93) in those treated with anti-TNF versus those not treated. The effect was significant in women (HR = 0.52, 95% CI 0.33 to 0.82) but not in men (HR = 0.95, 95% CI 0.52 to 1.71).

Conclusion: After adjusting for disease severity, treatment with TNF inhibitors was found to be associated with a reduced mortality in women but not men with RA. These findings are compatible with a critical role for inflammation in RA-associated premature mortality.

  • COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • CVD, cardiovascular disease
  • DMARD, disease-modifying antirheumatic drug
  • HAQ, Health Assessment Questionnaire
  • ICD, International Classification of Diseases
  • PYRS, person-years
  • RA, rheumatoid arthritis
  • SMR, standardised mortality ratio
  • SSATG, South Swedish Arthritis Treatment Group
  • TNF, tumour necrosis factor
  • VAS, visual analogue scale
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