OBJECTIVE: The prevalence of concurrent rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is probably underestimated because of the increasing spread of this virus worldwide, especially in developing countries. In these patients, anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha (anti-TNF-alpha) therapy may aggravate hepatitis and increase viremia. We evaluated the safety of these treatments, which remain controversial.METHODS: Thirty-one HCV-positive patients (23 women, 8 men, mean age 59+/-13 yrs, mean disease duration 13+/-11.5 SD yrs) with active RA [Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28)>3.2] unresponsive to conventional therapies were treated with TNF-alpha blockers (infliximab 11, etanercept 17, adalimumab 3) at standard dosages. Safety and efficacy were evaluated at the third month of treatment and at the patient's last observation.RESULTS: A significant clinical-serological improvement was recorded at the 3-month reevaluation. Mean values of patients assessment of general health on visual analog scale (range 0.100) decreased from 69+/-29 (SD) to 35+/-27 (p<0.0001), Ritchie index from 21.6+/-13.9 to 10.1+/-3.7 (p<0.0001), erythrocyte sedimentation rate from 36+/-25 to 28+/-22 mm/h (p=0.04), and DAS28 from 5.2+/-1.6 to 2.78+/-1.3 (p<0.0001); a DAS28<2.6 was recorded in 15/31 (48%) patients. At the last observation 19 patients (61%) continued TNF-alpha blockers, and the observed benefits persisted after 22+/-11 months of followup. Mean values of transaminases (ALT) and HCV viral load showed no significant variations; TNF-alpha blockers were discontinued in only one patient because of persistently elevated ALT not correlated to the variations of HCV viremia; this latter increased significantly (>or=2 log10) in 4 cases.CONCLUSION: Previous observations had suggested the safety of TNF-alpha blockers for treatment of RA in patients with concurrent HCV infection. Given the clinical-therapeutic implications, our results support the safety of TNF-alpha blockers in patients with HCV, provided there is close monitoring of clinical and virological data (mainly ALT and HCV viremia).
Safety of anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha therapy in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic hepatitis C virus infection / Ferri, Clodoveo; Ferraccioli, G; Ferrari, D; Galeazzi, M; Lapadula, G; Montecucco, C; Triolo, G; Valentini, G; Valesini, G; Gisea, Group. - In: THE JOURNAL OF RHEUMATOLOGY. - ISSN 0315-162X. - STAMPA. - 35:(2008), pp. 1944-1949.