Recent Remicade Rarities: Leprosy, Lethal Malaria, Pustular eruption & Psoriasis (1 of 3)

(note: excuse the tabloid title)

As the remicade.com website says, Remicade (Infliximab) "can lower your ability to fight infections." For example, all potential patients are screened for latent tuberculosis.

To be fair, the following examples of other serious infections and skin problems are probably rare instances. However, they have been published in medical journals over the past 18 months. If nothing else, they point out that the full extent of Remicade's side effects are still not known.

Development of Leprosy and Type 1 Leprosy Reactions after Treatment with Infliximab: A Report of 2 Cases source: Clinical Infectious Diseases 2006; 43:e19-22 D. M. Scollard, M. P. Joyce, and T. P. Gillis
June 9, 2006
In this study, two patients, a 60-year-old white male from Louisiana and a 76-year-old white female from Texas, developed leprosy [Hansen's disease] after being treated with Remicade.

The authors make three key points:

(1) Infliximab may increase the risk of leprosy

The diagnosis of leprosy is extremely rare in people born in the United States.

  • 130 to 150 people a year in the US are diagnosed with leprosy
  • Less than 15 of these people are natives of Louisiana or Texas

(2) Risk of "accelerated progression of the infection"

The infection (M. leprae), spread "more rapidly in both of these patients than is typical for this slow-growing pathogen. They developed the borderline lepromatous form of the disease (i.e., a large bacterial load) within 1-2 years after receiving infliximab, which is shorter than the typical incubation time of 3-5 years."

The doctors speculate that both patients had latent leprosy which became active after Remicade treatment--similar to how latent tuberculosis has been shown to become active while using Remicade.

(3) Withdrawal of Infliximab may bring on leprosy complications

After stopping infliximab, both patients had a "Type 1 Leprosy Reaction." For one patient, this meant a marked increase in skin inflammation and worsening of skin lesions.

Although the chance of developing leprosy while taking Remicade is less than miniscule, these case studies do show the negative impact which Remiade has on the immune system.

(This post became longer then expected, subsequent posts will cover the other conditions promised in the title--particularly people who developed psoriasis while using Remicade for Crohn's disease.)