From the Journals

Glucocorticoids plus tofacitinib may boost herpes zoster risk



Concomitant use of glucocorticoids with tofacitinib in rheumatoid arthritis may double the risk of herpes zoster, but methotrexate does not appear to increase the risk, outcomes from a cohort study of 8,030 rheumatoid arthritis patients – including 222 cases of herpes zoster – suggest.

Dr. Jeffrey R. Curtis Courtesy UAB Photo

Dr. Jeffrey R. Curtis

Using information from Medicare and MarketScan, researchers found that dual therapy with tofacitinib and glucocorticoids was associated with a 96% increase in the risk of herpes zoster, compared with monotherapy with the Janus kinase inhibitor tofacitinib (95% confidence interval, 33%-188%). The crude incidence rate in those taking concomitant tofacitinib and glucocorticoids was 6 cases per 100 patient-years, compared with an incidence rate of 3.4 cases per 100 patient-years with tofacitinib monotherapy.

However, the addition of methotrexate therapy to tofacitinib was not associated with an increased risk of herpes zoster, and the incidence rate in patients on this dual therapy was 3.7 cases per 100 patient-years, Jeffrey R. Curtis, MD, MS, MPH, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his coauthors reported in Arthritis Care & Research.

Women – who constituted 80% of the study population – showed a significantly increased risk of herpes zoster, as did older patients.

The study also found that individuals who had received the live herpes zoster vaccine showed a trend toward a decrease in risk.

“We saw a strong trend for decreased risk related to vaccination with the live agent (Zostavax); the concern with this form of vaccination is that any live vaccination is potentially dangerous in patients receiving potent immunosuppression,” Dr. Curtis and his associates wrote.

“The risks for disease flare, and potentially problematic tolerability related to a relatively high incidence of grade 3 (severe) systemic reactogenicity, may limit enthusiasm until specific data in an RA population is available,” they wrote. However, they noted that a randomized, controlled trial of the live virus vaccine was underway in patients with rheumatoid arthritis who were being treated with tumor necrosis factor inhibitors and suggested that vaccination should be considered in at-risk patients who didn’t have contraindications.

The authors noted that the effect of glucocorticoid exposure on herpes zoster risk in patients taking tofacitinib was similar to that seen in rheumatoid arthritis patients receiving conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs or biologic therapies.

The study was partly funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Two authors declared research grants and other funding from the pharmaceutical industry, but no other conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Curtis J et al. Arthritis Care Res. 2018 Oct 8. doi: 10.1002/acr.23769.

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