Question: What are anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) medications and how are they used to treat rheumatoid arthritis?
Answer: Anti-TNF medications, or TNF inhibitors, are medicines that target an important cytokine TNF-alpha. Turns out that TNF-alpha is extremely important in the mechanism of inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, and high levels of this cytokine are found in the blood and in the joints of patients with active disease. These medications are given by injection or infusion in the clinic and can be very effective in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as well as decreasing the progression of the disease. There are currently three drugs that are available -- Enbrel, Humira, and Remicade. All of these medicines are very helpful in treating the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. They're often used in combination with the traditional oral DMARDs such as methotrexate.