TNF Alpha Inhibitors

TNF Alpha Inhibitors or Tumor Necrosis Factor inhibitors are a classification of drugs used to treat inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, psoriasis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

What these drugs do is they stop the progression of the disease and reduce the inflammatory response by targeting the tumor necrosis factor. (1)

What is TNF?

Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) is a type of protein created by white blood cells in response to infection and inflammation. TNF is useful because it heightens the immune response of the body. However, TNF can activate various bodily reactions including cancer cell growth. In a healthy person, if the number of tumor necrosis factor goes out of control, it is blocked naturally by the body.

However, people with rheumatic disease who suffer from excess TNF could suffer from severe inflammation and other associated symptoms. It affects not just the inflammation in the joints, but as well in the gastrointestinal tract and skin. (1, 2)

There is a vast TNF alpha inhibitors list, but the US Food and Drug Administration approved only six TNF inhibitors for the treatment of rheumatic conditions. TNF alpha inhibitor drugs are quite costly. To somehow reduce the cost, patients with mild to moderate disease are treated with methotrexate before switching to TNF inhibitor. (2)


Image 1 : Tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitor biologics and mode of action

Turmeric, one of the spices packed with health benefits.imagePicture 2 : Turmeric, one of the spices packed with health benefits.
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A plant loaded with health benefits including the ability to block TNF

Image 3 : A plant loaded with health benefits including the ability to block TNF alpha.
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TNF alpha inhibitors mechanism of action

TNF alpha inhibitor is useful in the treatment of various inflammatory conditions. TNF alpha inhibitors for rheumatoid arthritis are tested and proven effective. In fact, they are more effective than traditional anti-inflammatory drugs. However, clinical trials and post marketing surveillance showed that TNF alpha inhibitors have adverse effects. (2, 3)

Tumor necrosis factor alpha plays an important role in the inflammatory and pain pathways. By inhibiting the action of TNF, the inflammatory response of the body will be reduced. This mechanism of action of TNF alpha inhibitor makes it perfect for the treatment and management of autoimmune conditions and inflammatory diseases.

TNF alpha inhibitor drugs can significantly decrease the pain, improves the function of the body, and improve the joint damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Before starting TNF alpha inhibitors, a person should firsts screen for HBsAg. People with HBsAg should receive prophylaxis. TNF causes immunosuppressive response, which could lead to reactivation of infections like hepatitis B and tuberculosis. (4, 5)

Side effects of TNF alpha inhibitors

Tumor necrosis factor given to the patient through injection can cause skin reaction. There is a localized rash on the injection site and the patient complains of itching or burning sensation. This usually last for a week. TNF alpha inhibitors can also put the patient at risk for various types of infections, especially fungal infections, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B infection.

Hence, it is highly recommended for the patient to be tested for TB before starting TNF alpha inhibitor therapy. The testing is done via blood test and skin test. TNF alpha inhibitors when used for a long period of time can put a patient at risk for cancer, especially skin cancer and lymphoma.

Those with multiple sclerosis or those with history of MS shouldn’t take TNF alpha inhibitors. People with cardiac disease should completely avoid TNF alpha inhibitor because it can further complicate the disease. (6)

What to keep in mind?

If the patient is currently on TNF alpha inhibitor and he suddenly has high fever, you should stop the drug right away. Patients who are on antibiotics for infection should not receive TNF alpha inhibitor too. The infection should completely go away before restarting TNF alpha inhibitor.

If a patient is planning to get vaccination while on TNF alpha inhibitor, he should first inform his doctor. Live vaccines should be completely avoided, although some vaccinations are safe. (7)

TNF alpha inhibitors could eat up a huge portion of your budget. The cost could be more than $10,000 a year. On the positive note, the expenses for TNF alpha inhibitor is usually covered by most health care insurance plan.

Natural TNF alpha inhibitors

As mentioned above, TNF alpha inhibitors are expensive. If you are looking for ways to improve your health without having the need to spend more than what you can, then you should switch to natural TNF alpha inhibitors. These include the following:

  • Turmeric – One of the common TNF alpha inhibitors is turmeric. It is an herb commonly used in Indian cooking. It is readily available in the leading supermarket. Turmeric contains curcumin, a chemical used to alleviate inflammation. It inhibits tumor necrosis factor. If you are the type of person who does not like the taste of turmeric, then don’t worry as there is now curcumin in capsule form. You can easily purchase it at the leading drug stores. (7, 8)
  • Milk Thistle/Holy Thistle – It is a type of plant primarily used to protect and treat liver-related diseases. The primary component of milk thistle is silymarin, which is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Silymarin can block tumor necrosis factor from activating nuclear transcription factor, which controls the inflammatory response and development of cancer cells. To benefit from the TNF alpha inhibitor effect of milk thistle, a person should consume about 280 mg to 450 mg of milk thistle a day.
  • Stinging Nettle Leaf Extract – This is one of the best herbal remedies for chronic inflammatory diseases. The leaves of stinging nettle can be brewed into a tea. The extracts can be taken as a replacement for water. (6, 9)
  • Green Tea – Natural green tea contains catechins, a potent chemical that plays a vital role in alleviating inflammatory response of the body. Drink 300 mg to 600 mg of green tea a day to enjoy its anti-inflammatory benefits. (10)

Tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors have been a huge help in the treatment and management of inflammatory diseases, especially arthritis. Millions of people all across the globe are benefiting from TNF alpha inhibitor therapy.



Published by Dr. Jackie Te RN, MD under Uncategorized.
Article was last reviewed on January 12th, 2022.

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