Do you ever see something on television that gives you pause? If so, you are not alone. Plenty of prescription drug advertisements contain warnings that would be downright scary if the people in them were not having quite so much fun. One reader wondered why so many different commercials warn about TB.

Why Are All These Ads Talking About TB?

Q. We are blanketed by television ads for new medicines. Many refer to increasing risks of contracting tuberculosis or advise against use if you have tuberculosis. What is common among these drugs that necessitates mention of TB?

Medications That Dampen Immune Response:

A. The drugs you have seen advertised, such as etanercept (Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira) and infliximab (Remicade), are immune system modulators. Doctors prescribe them to treat autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis.

These medications (and others, such as Cimzia and Simponi) are effective in dialing down an overactive immune response in which the immune system is attacking body tissue. But we need the immune system to protect us against infection.

TB Is a Serious Infection:

The pathogen that causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, can hide out in lung cells for decades without being detected. If the immune system is impaired, however, the germ can emerge and thrive, causing a debilitating, contagious and hard-to-treat infection that can be life threatening.

TB is a leading cause of death for people with HIV/AIDS because their immune systems are not functioning properly. That is why it is such a concern for people taking medications that hamper the normal immune response. In addition, one untreated case of the disease could lead to many more, creating a public health hazard. Consequently, the precaution to avoid such medicines if you have tuberculosis is a wise one.

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