Four popular arthritis drugs, Enbrel, Remicade, Humira, and Cizmia, have received stronger warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The medications, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other serious conditions, have been linked to possibly fatal fungal infections in patients.
Approximately 240 cases of histoplasmosis in arthritis drug users were reported to the FDA, and about 20 percent of the patients died. The infection mimics symptoms of the flu, and is most often found in the middle part of the country. Histoplasmosis can have particularly serious consequences if it is not detected early and spreads from the respiratory system to other organs of the body.
The arthritis medications will receive a "black box" warning that alerts patients to the histoplasmosis risk. This is the strongest warning that the FDA offers. Patients will be encouraged to call their doctors if they develop persistent fever, cough, fatigue, or shortness of breath, all of which can be symptoms of the fungal infection. The drugs are also used to treat juvenile arthritis, certain types of psoriasis, Crohn's disease, and other conditions.