Recent Study Finds Better Than Expected Safety Data for TNF Inhibitors in Ankylosing Spondylitis

According to a story from Ankylosing Spondylitis News, a recent study has found that the class of drugs known as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors may actually be safer for patients with the rare disease ankylosing spondylitis than had been previously understood. More specifically, the study results found that these drugs may have less side effects than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These findings suggest that TNF inhibitors may be a better option for first-line therapy.

About Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare form of arthritis which is characterized by long term inflammation of the spinal joints. Other joints may also be affected. The precise cause of ankylosing spondylitis has not been identified. A host of environmental and genetic factors may play a role; for example, a study found that the majority of patients in the UK presented with the HLA-B27 antigen. The onset of ankylosing spondylitis symptoms often begins in early adulthood. These symptoms may include relapsing/remitting back pain, progressive joint stiffening, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. Inflammation can spread to other parts of the body, such as the eyes, the cardiovascular system, and lungs. No cure for the disease exists, so treatment focuses on pain management and slowing disease progression. Treatment may include NSAIDs, opioids, TNF inhibitors, physical therapy, surgery, and some others. Unfortunately, most therapies can cause serious side effects with long term use. To learn more about ankylosing spondylitis, click here.

About The Study

TNF inhibitors are effective in ankylosing spondylitis because the presence in excess of the TNF alpha protein that they inhibit can directly cause the joint inflammation that is characteristic in the disease. The researchers looked at data from a total of 150 patients with the illness, including 103 that had been treated with TNF inhibitors and 47 that had not. The team analyzed medical records and also conducted interviews with patients to determine if there was a significant disparity in adverse events between the two groups. 

The researchers found that there was no significant difference, with the TNF inhibitor treated group also displaying better disease control and reduced frequency of noninfectious adverse events. A greater percentage of these patients were also able to achieve disease remission. While the results are encouraging, the study authors noted that the brief time frame used (from September 2016 to March 2018) means that the study did not account for potential long term adverse effects of TNF inhibitors. 

Check out the original study here.


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