How Do TNF Inhibitors (DMARDs) Work?

Reviewed on 1/14/2022

How do TNF inhibitors (DMARDs) work?

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors (DMARDs) belong to a class of medications known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). TNF inhibitors are prescribed in the treatment of several autoimmune inflammatory disorders including arthritic, dermatologic and gastrointestinal diseases.

TNF inhibitors are lab-manufactured biologic products that suppress inflammation by blocking the activity of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-A), a protein (cytokine) that plays a central role in promoting persistent inflammation in autoimmune disorders.

TNF-A is produced by immune cells such as phagocytes to destroy the infection. TNF-A activity is normally well controlled in healthy people, but in autoimmune disorders, dysfunctional TNF-A causes persistent inflammation and tissue damage in many parts of the body including joints, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs.

TNF-A binds to special molecules known as TNF receptors (TNFRI and TNFRII) in cell membranes to activate inflammatory signals and release other proinflammatory cytokines. TNF inhibitors bind to TNF-A and prevent its binding to the receptors and consequently, prevent the activation of inflammatory immune response.

How are TNF inhibitors (DMARDs) used?

TNF inhibitors (DMARDs) may be administered as subcutaneous injections in the tissue under the skin, or as intravenous injections or infusions to treat autoimmune inflammatory disorders that include:


  • Rheumatoid arthritis (joint inflammation)
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (childhood arthritis with no known cause)
  • Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (arthritis in more than four joints)
  • Spondyloarthritis (a family of arthritic conditions that affect the spine, other joints, bowel, skin, and eyes)
  • Plaque psoriasis (skin condition with scaly lesions)
  • Psoriatic arthritis (a complication of psoriasis)
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (a type of arthritis that causes the vertebrae in the spine to fuse over time)
  • Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Pediatric Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa (inflammation of hair follicles and sweat glands causing abscesses)
  • Uveitis (inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye)

Orphan designation:

What are side effects of TNF inhibitors (DMARDs)?

Side effects of TNF inhibitors (DMARDs) may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of some TNF inhibitors (DMARDs)?

Generic and brand names of TNF inhibitors (DMARDs) include:


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