The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) have released joint treatment guidelines for psoriatic arthritis (PsA).
The guidelines provide evidence-based pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic recommendations, and include recommendations on other management issues including vaccinations, psoriatic spondylitis, enthesitis, and treatment in the presence of inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, or serious infections.
PsA is a chronic inflammatory musculoskeletal disease most commonly found in patients with psoriasis, a skin disease that causes red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. According to the NPF, more than 8 million people in the U.S. suffer from psoriasis, and it is estimated that 30% of them may develop PsA.
These guidelines were developed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology. Due to limited data in some areas, the quality of evidence was often graded low or very low. This led to nearly all recommendations being conditional. A voting panel of rheumatologists, dermatologists, health professionals, and patients achieved consensus on the direction and strength of the recommendations.
Some key recommendations from the guideline include:
- A conditional recommendation to use treat-to-target approach for all patients with active PsA
- For treatment of naive, active PsA, a conditional recommendation to use tumor necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi) biologics as a first-line therapy option in patients with active PsA
- Oral small molecule (OSM) drugs (methotrexate, sulfasalazine, cyclosporine, leflunomide, apremilast) may be used instead of a TNFi biologic in patients without severe PsA and without severe psoriasis, in those who prefer an oral drug instead of parenteral therapy, or in those with contraindications to TNFi treatment (congestive heart failure, previous serious infections, recurrent infections, or demyelinating disease)
- For treatment-naive patients with active PsA, the use of TNFi biologic or OSM is recommended over an interleukin-17 inhibitor (IL-17i) or IL-12/23i biologic; an IL-17i or IL-12/23i biologic may be used instead of TNFi biologics in patients with severe psoriasis or contraindications to TNFi biologics
In patients with active PsA despite OSM therapy, switching to a TNFi, an IL-17i, or an IL-12/23i biologic is recommended over switching to a different OSM. A different OSM may be used rather than a TNFi, IL-17i, or IL-12/23i in patients who prefer an oral medication or those without evidence of severe PsA or severe psoriasis.
Also, in patients with active PsA despite TNFi treatment, switching to a different TNFi biologic monotherapy is recommended over switching to an IL-12/23i biologic, an IL-17i biologic, abatacept (Orencia), or tofacitinib (Xeljanz) monotherapy, or adding methotrexate to the current TNFi biologic.
An IL-12/23i biologic, IL-17i biologic, abatacept, or tofacitinib may be used instead of a different TNFi biologic monotherapy in the case of a primary TNFi biologic failure or a serious adverse event due to the TNFi biologic. An IL-17i or IL-12/23i biologic may be used instead of a different TNFi biologic, particularly in the presence of severe psoriasis.
Abatacept may be used instead of a TNFi biologic in patients with recurrent or serious infections in the absence of severe psoriasis.
In treatment-naive PsA patients with predominant enthesitis, a TNFi biologic is recommended over an OSM as a first-line option. Apremilast (Otezla) may be used instead of a TNFi biologic if the patient prefers an oral therapy or has contraindications to TNFi.
Finally, there is a strong recommendation for smoking avoidance and/or cessation.
The use of TNFi biologics as a first-line therapy was one of many recommendations included to help providers and patients decide between the various pharmacologic options currently available. While current Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis (GRAPPA) recommendations address the use of TNFi biologics in treatment-naive patients, this is the first guideline that specifically recommends first trying them over OSM drugs. These guidelines were formulated before the recently presented SEAM study showed the equivalent efficacy of methotrexate and etanercept in patients with active PsA.
Tofacitinib was not included within the OSM category since its benefit/risk profile differs from that of the rest of the OSMs.
The strong recommendation for smoking cessation was based on evidence linking smoking to a reduced efficacy of biologics; the benefits of smoking cessation; and the well-established link of smoking with mortality, cancers, and heart and lung diseases in the general population.
Surprisingly, little mention was made of obesity management and weight loss in treating active PsA.
Jack Cush, MD, is the director of clinical rheumatology at the Baylor Research Institute and a professor of medicine and rheumatology at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He is the executive editor of RheumNow.com. A version of this article first appeared on RheumNow, a news, information, and commentary site dedicated to the field of rheumatology. Register to receive their free rheumatology newsletter.