From the Journals

Chronic infections such as HCV, HIV, and TB cause unique problems for psoriasis patients



In a review of therapeutic issues for psoriasis patients who have such chronic infections as hepatitis, HIV, or latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) or those who fall into the category of special populations (pregnant women or children), significant concerns were directly tied to the mode of action of the drugs involved.

An enlargement of a hepatitis C vaccine is shown, Courtesy NIH

In particular, “Most systemic agents for psoriasis are immunosuppressive, which poses a unique treatment challenge in patients with psoriasis with chronic infections because they are already immunosuppressed,” according to Shivani B. Kaushik, MD, a resident in the department of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and her colleague Mark G. Lebwohl, MD, professor and system chair of the department.

For example, the reviewers detailed a report of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) reactivation in patients with psoriasis who were taking biologics. Virus reactivation was noted in 2/175 patients who were positive for anti-HBc antibody, 3/97 patients with HCV infection, and 8/40 patients who were positive for HBsAg (the surface antigen of HBV). From this, they concluded that “biologics pose minimal risk for viral reactivation in patients with anti-HCV or anti-HBc antibodies, but they are of considerable risk in HBsAg-positive patients.” (J Amer Acad Derm. 2019 Jan;80:43-53).

Giving a specific example, Dr. Kaushik and her colleague pointed out that the safety of ustekinumab in patients with psoriasis with concurrent HCV and HBV infection was not clear. Viral reactivation and hepatocellular cancer were reported in one of four patients with HCV and in two of seven HBsAg-positive patients; and yet, another study showed that the successful use of ustekinumab for psoriasis had no impact on liver function or viral load in a patient with coexisting HCV.

Overall, “Patients should not be treated with immunosuppressive therapies during the acute stage. However, biologic treatment can be initiated in patients with chronic or resolved hepatitis under close monitoring and collaboration with a gastroenterologist,” the researchers stated.

In addition, they pointed out that methotrexate, another commonly prescribed drug for psoriasis, is absolutely contraindicated, although the use of cyclosporine remains controversial for those patients who are HCV-antibody positive.

“Most systemic agents used in psoriasis are immunosuppressive and require appropriate screening, monitoring, and prophylaxis when used in [psoriasis] patients with chronic infections, such as hepatitis, HIV, and LTBI,” the authors concluded.

The authors reported receiving funding from a number of pharmaceutical companies.

SOURCE: Kaushik BS et al. J Amer Acad Derm. 2019;80:43-53.

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