Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFa) plays a central role in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) pathogenesis. There are currently three available anti-TNFa agents for the treatment of RA--adalimumab, etanercept, and infliximab. These targeted therapies have select advantages over traditional disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), agents that have long been the mainstay of RA treatment. Compared with conventional DMARDs, TNFa inhibitors display a rapid onset of action and have shown a significant effect in retarding the radiographic joint destruction that often characterizes RA disease progression. Although anti-TNFa drugs represent an important advance in RA treatment, postmarketing reports of serious infections, as well as other adverse events, highlight the need for continued postmarketing vigilance with the use of these agents. This review evaluates the unique attributes of the available TNFa inhibitors, focusing specifically on recent reports providing important insight into the understanding of drug-related efficacy and toxicity.
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