The safety profile of anti-tumour necrosis factor therapy in inflammatory bowel disease in clinical practice: analysis of 620 patient-years follow-up


Dr C. W. Lees, Gastrointestinal Unit, Molecular Medicine Centre, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK.


Background  Anti-TNF agents are now widely used in Crohn’s disease (CD), and in ulcerative colitis (UC).

Aim  To review the safety profile of anti-TNF agents in all patients treated with infliximab in Edinburgh from 1999 to 2007.

Methods  Complete data were available on 202/207 patients comprising 157 CD, 42 UC and three coeliac disease. Median follow-up was 2.4 years (1.0–4.9) with a total of 620 patient-years follow-up. About 19.1% of CD patients were subsequently treated with adalimumab.

Results  Seven deaths (3.3%) occurred in follow-up; only one death was <1 year post-infliximab (at day 72, from lung cancer). A total of six malignancies (three haematological, three bronchogenic) and six cases of suspected demyelination (three with confirmed neurological disease) were reported. In the 90 days following infliximab, 95 adverse events (36 serious) occurred in 58/202 (28.7%) patients. In all, 42/202 (20.8%) had an infectious event (22 serious) and 27/202 (13.4%) of patients had an infusion reaction: 19 acute (four serious) and eight delayed (three serious).

Conclusions  Serious infections, malignancies and neurological disease complicate anti-TNF use in clinical practice. Although evidence for causality is unclear, potential mechanisms and predisposing factors need to be explored. In individual patients, the risk/benefit analysis needs to be carefully assessed and discussed prior to commencement of therapy.