Objective: To assess anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) agents in patients with refractory systemic rheumatoid vasculitis (SRV).
Methods: 1200 rheumatologists and internists were asked to provide medical files for patients with anti-TNF agents given as a second-line treatment for active SRV refractory to cyclophosphamide and glucocorticoids.
Results: We identified nine cases in which anti-TNF drugs were given for active SRV, despite previous treatment with a mean cumulative dose of 8.4 g of cyclophosphamide in association with high-dose glucocorticoids. The mean prednisone dose before anti-TNF therapy was 29.6 mg/day. After 6 months, six patients were in remission (complete in five, partial in one). The treatment failed in one patient and two patients stopped taking the anti-TNF treatment due to side-effects. Mean prednisone dose was reduced to 11.2 mg/day. Severe infection occurred in three patients. Relapses were observed in two patients. Remission was re-established by reintroducing anti-TNF therapy in one case and increasing the dose in the other.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence of efficacy of anti-TNF therapy in adjunct to glucocorticoids for treating active refractory SRV. Remission was achieved in two-thirds of patients, with a significant decrease in prednisone dose, although there was a high rate of infection in these severely ill patients.
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Funding: The CRI has received funding from Wyeth, Schering Plough, Abbott and Roche.
Competing interests: XM, XP and SS have been investigators of studies evaluating the role of anti-tumour necrosis factor therapy in rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, which were partially funded by Immunex, Amgen and Abbott. XM, XP and SS have also been investigators of a study evaluating anti-tumour necrosis factor therapy in Sjögren syndrome, which was partially funded by Schering Plough.
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