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Tumour necrosis factor inhibitors in ankylosing spondylitis

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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is the most common form of spondyloarthropathy. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and exercise are used to manage the chronic inflammatory spinal pain and stiffness. Up to 20% of patients have a peripheral inflammatory arthritis, which is treated with standard disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs especially sulfasalazine and methotrexate. Patients may also have extra-articular manifestations, such as anterior uveitis, psoriasiform skin lesions and inflammatory bowel disease. Anti-tumour necrosis (TNF) therapy has been used with great success in rheumatoid arthritis. There are now good data of the efficacy of anti-TNF therapies in the short and medium terms in AS. Etanercept, infliximab and adalimumab have been shown in randomized placebo-controlled trials of short duration to significantly reduce disease activity, including pain and stiffness as well as improving function, spinal movement and quality of life. It is hoped that long-term therapy will prevent radiologic progression and ankylosis and studies of long-term efficacy are awaited. Anti-TNF therapies are generally well tolerated in AS. It is important to screen for latent tuberculosis before the commencement of anti-TNF therapy. The side-effect profile of anti-TNF therapies in AS does not appear different from that in rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, treatment with anti-TNF therapy in AS is indicated in established disease with radiographic damage. There is evidence that response to therapy is greater in patients with earlier disease and less damage. Future developments may see this therapy extended to patients with pre-radiographic AS.
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Keywords: adalimumab; ankylosing spondylitis; etanercept; infliximab; treatment; tumour necrosis factor inhibitor

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Rheumatology, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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