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Psoriatic arthritis therapy: NSAIDs and traditional
DMARDs

Ann Rheum Disdoi:10.1136/ard.2004.030783 Updated information and services can be found at: References
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Ann Rheum Dis 2005;64(Suppl II):ii74–ii77. doi: 10.1136/ard.2004.030783 Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and tradi- effect on rash (assessed by Psoriasis Area and Severity Index tional disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are (PASI) score) or on the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)to suggest disease modification.7 Worsening of skin disease widely used in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), but with initiation of NSAID therapy has been observed for both this is based more upon clinical experience than adequate non-specific and cyclo-oxygenase-2 specific NSAIDs8–10 with evidence from clinical trials. This report summarises the shunting of arachidonic acid metabolites down the leuko- results from available trials highlighting evidence of efficacy triene pathway postulated as the mechanism, although other and deficiencies with respect to effect on joints and to a lesser controlled studies suggest this is not a major clinical issue.7 degree cutaneous disease. The available published data on No unusual toxicity associated with the use of NSAIDs in PsA efficacy of NSAIDs, glucocorticoids, antimalarials, sulfasa- lazine, gold, methotrexate, azathioprine, and ciclosporin aredetailed, as well as new data on leflunomide and other novel agents. The conclusions of this review are that evidence Periodic intra-articular injection of corticosteroid can be of supports marginal efficacy of sulfasalazine and perhaps gold particular value in the management of patients with in the treatment of peripheral psoriatic arthropathy, and oligoarticular disease or those with controlled polyarticular methotrexate and ciclosporin are effective for treating the disease but one or two persistently actively inflamed joints.
skin disease although evidence for improvement of the Two failed injections are a requirement for eligibility for arthropathy is empirical at best. New trials with standardised antitumour necrosis factor (anit-TNF) therapy in recently and validated outcome measures are required to better devised guidelines.11 In general, systemic glucocorticoids assess efficacy. Evaluating newer agents, against and in should be used judiciously because of the risk of provoking combination with traditional DMARDS, may further clarify a pustular flare in the skin disease on withdrawal.12 the latter’s role in the future management of this condition.
CONVENTIONAL DISEASE MODIFYINGANTIRHEUMATIC DRUGSSulfasalazine Idealtherapyforpsoriaticarthritis(PsA)shouldtargetboth Sulfasalazine’sefficacyinRAandotherseronegativearthri- rash and joint disease, treat peripheral and axial manifes- tides led to its use in PsA. Efficacy was initially observed in tations including dactylitis and enthesitis. Erosive joint pilot studies and a number of controlled trials, with most damage as well as the impact on quality of life from PsA have documenting a modest degree of clinical benefit. Typical of been shown to be comparable with that in patients with three early controlled trials13 involving relatively small rheumatoid arthritis (RA).1 2 Therefore, both symptomatic numbers of patients was a 24 week double blind, placebo therapy and aggressive treatment aimed at disease modifica- controlled study of 30 patients using a dose of 2 g/day.
tion/amelioration should be the goal of effective medical Significant improvement was observed in morning stiffness, management of PsA. Traditional disease modifying antirheu- number of painful joints, articular index, clinical score, and matic drug (DMARD) therapy, as detailed below with these pain score, with the favourable response more pronounced in aims in mind, has been poorly studied. As will be shown, the polyarticular group.14 A clinical response was observed as there are few adequate well designed controlled randomised early as four weeks in one study15 and was associated with a trials, and those that have been performed have shown reduction in ESR in another.16 Three further trials involving disappointing efficacy. Consistently high placebo response considerably larger numbers of patients reached similar rates are seen in PsA trials, adding to the difficulty of conclusions with significant improvement noted primarily interpreting the results of uncontrolled trials when making in patient reported measures. A study of 91 patients treated management decisions for this condition. Difficulties in with a dose of 3 g/day over 24 weeks revealed significant defining clear disease subgroups and the possible maldis- improvement in patient global assessment,17 and a study of tribution of the subtypes of arthritis between the placebo and 120 patients treated for a similar period demonstrated treatment arms further complicate the extrapolation of significant improvement only in reduction of pain.18 The results to specific disease subsets. Novel biological therapies largest and longest of the controlled trials evaluated 221 for PsA and the development of more reliable outcome patients treated with sulfasalazine 2 g/day over a 36 week measures to assess responders’ symptomatic, functional, and course. This study demonstrated efficacy of sulfasalazine radiological endpoints are described elsewhere in this determined by a predefined response criterion that included improvement in tender and swollen joint counts and patientand physician global assessments. Interestingly, although the responder definition was met statistically, the only individual Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are com-monly used as initial therapy, prescribed for both peripheral Abbreviations: DMARD, disease modifying antirheumatic drug; ESR, and axial disease. However, controlled studies assessing erythrocyte sedimentation rate; NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory efficacy are limited; they confirm superiority to placebo on drug; PASI, Psoriasis Area and Severity Index; PsA, psoriatic arthritis; tender/swollen joint counts, and pain scores, but show no measure within the definition that achieved statistical study of parenteral gold.29 Neither significant flare nor significance was the patient global assessment.19 The action improvement in cutaneous psoriasis with oral or parenteral of sulfasalazine appears to be confined to peripheral arthritis gold has been observed. When comparisons are made with no evidence of benefit in axial disease20 and only rare retrospectively30 as well as prospectively31 between metho- reports of either cutaneous improvement or exacerbation.
trexate and gold therapy, patients with PsA treated withmethotrexate are nine times more likely to respond and five times less likely to discontinue therapy than patients treated The efficacy of methotrexate in PsA was first demonstrated in with gold—with mean treatment survival of 16 months with 1964 in a double blind, placebo controlled study of 21 methotrexate compared with six months with gold.
patients who had active skin disease and peripheralarthritis.21 Parenteral methotrexate (1–3 mg/kg divided in three doses at 10 day intervals) was compared with placebo Leflunomide is a selective pyrimidine synthesis inhibitor that with an observation period of approximately three months.
targets activated T cells lacking a salvage pathway.32 A small, Significant improvement was seen in joint tenderness and pilot, open label study of six patients with psoriatic range of motion, extent of skin involvement, and ESR. After polyarthritis showed a significant decrease in the C-reactive completion of therapy, however, most patients experienced a protein (CRP) level as well as in the tender and swollen joint recurrence of skin and joint disease within one to four count, although not in the extent of psoriasis, after three months. Adverse effects were common but did not require months of therapy.33 Another study of 12 patients with cessation of therapy. A randomised, double blind, placebo polyarticular PsA who had failed at least one DMARD controlled trial comparing oral low dose pulse methotrexate confirmed the clinical efficacy of leflunomide in the eight (7.5 mg or 15 mg/week) with placebo over 12 weeks did patients available for follow up, over two years of follow up.34 show better patient tolerance; however, efficacy of this Psoriatic rash improved in two thirds of the patients. These regimen was not established, as the only response measure promising results led to a randomised double blind, placebo to attain statistical significance was the physician assessment controlled study in 188 patients with active PsA (.3 tender of arthritis activity.22 The study results were blunted because and swollen joints) and active rash (.3% body surface area).
one arm was lower than currently used dose of methotrexate, More than half of the patients had been inadequately and because fewer patients were recruited than called for by controlled by prior DMARD therapy including methotrexate.
the power calculations.22 In a retrospective report of 40 After six months, 59% (56/95) of patients treated with patients over 12 years of treatment with a mean methotrex- leflunomide met the primary efficacy endpoint (psoriatic ate dose of 11.2 mg/week, 38 patients had an excellent or arthritis response criteria; PsARC), compared with 30% (27/ good articular response, 36 had cutaneous resolution, and 91) of patients treated with placebo; 24% of the former only two patients withdrew because of toxicity (leucopenia (compared with 0% of the latter) had significant PASI score and stomatitis).23 In seven patients who underwent 11 liver improvements. Treatment was relatively well tolerated with biopsies during the study, one patient was found to have adverse effects similar to the RA experience and no unusual micronodular cirrhosis at a cumulative methotrexate dose of 400 mg (with an unchanged biopsy at a cumulative dose of1080 mg). In a 24 month study of 38 patients, patients treated with methotrexate did not show any improvement in Both azathioprine and its derivative, 6-mercaptopurine, are radiographic progression compared with matched controls.24 purine analogues that have been used in the treatment of Whether the use of methotrexate in psoriasis and PsA results psoriasis and PsA. Although favourable results have been in more frequent or severe toxicity compared with RA is reported, the study populations have been small and no unknown. A retrospective study of 104 patients followed over placebo controlled data are available. Eleven of 13 patients two decades did not suggest increased toxicity.25 No treated with 6-mercaptopurine (20–50 mg/kg per day) consensus exists as to the indications for liver biopsy either showed improvement in both joint and skin disease within before treatment or at specified intervals during treatment.
three weeks of initiation of therapy and maintenance of thisimprovement on a dose of 1 mg/kg per day with minimal adverse effects.36 A 12 month double blind crossover study of A beneficial response in some assessment measures has been azathioprine (3 mg/kg per day) in six patients reported demonstrated with both oral and parenteral gold in PsA. In a moderate or marked joint improvement in all six patients and six month double blind, placebo controlled study of cutaneous improvement in four; however, the dose of auranofin (6 mg/day) involving 238 patients, the auranofin azathioprine had to be reduced in five patients because of treated group showed a modest but significant improvement leucopenia.37 In view of the known toxicity of these agents, in physician global assessment and occupational/daily func- appropriate monitoring is mandatory.
tion scores compared with the placebo group, but nosignificant difference was seen in morning stiffness or joint tenderness/swelling scores.26 The rate of withdrawal from Ciclosporin A has been used with success in cutaneous auranofin because of adverse drug reactions was 10%. An psoriasis and beneficial effect in PsA. Representative of this uncontrolled study of 14 patients treated with injectable gold experience is a six month open study of eight patients (seven showed either remission or improvement (50% reduction in of whom were refractory to methotrexate) with a starting number of inflamed joints) in 71% of patients.27 Toxicity was dose of 3.5 mg/kg per day, which produced marked improve- similar to that observed with parenteral gold in RA. A double ment in joint and skin disease in seven of the eight patients blind comparison of auranofin (6 mg/day), intramuscular after two months.38 One patient withdrew from the study gold sodium thiomalate (50 mg/wk), and placebo showed because of lack of efficacy, and three patients required a 25% significant improvement in the Ritchie articular index, the reduction in the dose of ciclosporin A because of a 50% visual analogue pain score, and the erythrocyte sedimenta- increase in serum creatinine. A prospective controlled trial tion rate (ESR) over 24 weeks in the parenteral gold group comparing ciclosporin A (3 mg/kg per day) with methotrex- but no significant difference in the auranofin group as ate (7.5 mg weekly) treated over a one year period suggested compared with the placebo group.28 Radiographic disease equivalent efficacy in 35 patients with PsA, although progression was not prevented in a small controlled two year combined withdrawals due lack of efficacy and toxicity were greater in the ciclosporin A group.39 A single six month pilot in the early withdrawal of three patients receiving colchicine study has employed ciclosporin A (3–5 mg/kg per day) in from the trial. Creatine kinase values increased, without combination with methotrexate (10–15 mg/week) in eight weakness, during treatment with colchicine (five patients) patients who had failed prior second line therapy.40 and placebo (four patients). This study did not provide Significant improvement was described in all patients during evidence that colchicine is of therapeutic value in the the first month of treatment, with five patients continuing on treatment of PsA. Larger studies of longer duration will be combined therapy at the conclusion of the study period.
necessary to establish any role of colchicine in the manage- Further studies are needed to define benefit and toxicity Etretinate, a vitamin A derivative, is the most commonly used Reports of favourable response to both chloroquine (250 mg/ retinoid in the treatment of psoriasis, and initial experience day) and hydroxychloroquine (200–400 mg/day) in approxi- with this agent in PsA suggests a beneficial effect. In one mately 75% of patients have been offset by concerns that pilot study, 40 patients treated with etretinate (50 mg/day) antimalarial drugs may have an adverse effect on the skin for a mean of 21.9 weeks experienced significant improve- disease. The spectrum of suspected cutaneous toxicity ment in the number of tender joints, the duration of morning includes exacerbation of plaques, photosensitivity, general- stiffness, and the ESR.46 Maximal improvement for most ised erythroderma, evolution to pustular psoriasis, and the efficacy measurements was seen at between 12 and development of an exfoliative dermatitis. Although the 16 weeks. Mucocutaneous reactions consisting of dried and reported incidence of these reactions ranges from 0% to cracked lips, mouth soreness, and nosebleeds were seen in 100%, it is important to note that more frequent reactions the preponderance of patients (39/40) and required cessation were observed in early trials that had few patients and of treatment in nine patients. Other relatively frequent primarily used regimens with quinacrine; much less toxicity adverse effects were alopecia, hyperlipidaemia, myalgias, has been seen in the more recent experience involving larger and elevated transaminase levels. Etretinate is a teratogen numbers of patients and using chloroquine or hydroxychlor- and should not be used in women of childbearing potential.
oquine.41 A prospective controlled trial is needed to establishthe efficacy and safety of these agents in the treatment of The most commonly used form of photochemotherapyinvolves the oral administration of 8-methoxypsoralen, a photosensitising medication, followed by exposure to long A favourable effect on PsA has been observed with the use of wave ultraviolet A (PUVA) light, which activates the drug. A D-penicillamine, but the available information is anecdotal prospective study of 27 patients treated with PUVA found a and very limited. Eleven patients (two with spondylitis, four 49% mean improvement in articular index of patients with with asymmetric oligoarthritis, and five with symmetric peripheral arthritis, whereas no benefit was seen in patients polyarthritis) were randomised to an initial phase consisting with spondylitis.47 In responders, improvement in the of treatment with either D-penicillamine or placebo for four peripheral arthritis seemed to correlate with clearing of the months, followed by four months of treatment with D- skin disease, whereas no such relationship was observed in penicillamine for all patients.42 The maximum dose of D- patients with axial disease. Extracorporeal photochemother- penicillamine was 750 mg/day, and no unusual toxicity was apy, also known as photopheresis, has been shown to observed. Clinical benefit was seen only during D-penicilla- diminish the in vitro viability, proliferation, and mitogen mine treatment; however, no efficacy measure attained response of lymphocytes, but reports of clinical improvement statistically significant improvement.
in arthritis symptoms are variable and no effect on skinlesions has been observed.48 49 ColchicineColchicine is an alkaloid known to attenuate the inflamma- tory response by interfering with neutrophil chemotaxis. A Somatostatin may benefit some patients with PsA but pilot study showed that 11 of 22 patients treated with requires prolonged intravenous infusion (48 hours) and is colchicine (0.02 mg/kg per day) had significant cutaneous poorly tolerated because of nausea. In one study, patients clearing, while four of eight patients with arthralgias had with extensive skin lesions and polyarticular involvement symptomatic improvement.43 A subsequent 16 week double blind crossover study of 15 patients compared colchicine(1.5 mg/day) with placebo.44 With the patient global assess- ment as the primary efficacy measure, colchicine was judged Other agents that have been reported to have activity in PsA more effective than placebo by 10/12 patients (83%) who include bromocriptine, cimetidine, fumaric acid, 2-chloro- completed the study, and significant improvement was seen deoxyadenosine, parenteral nitrogen mustard, peptide T, in grip strength, Ritchie index, joint pain, and joint swelling radiation synovectomy with yttrium 90, dietary supplements during treatment with colchicine. Gastrointestinal symptoms and total lymph node irradiation. Further study is needed to results in withdrawal of two patients from the study and a define what role, if any, these regimens might have in patient temporary dose reduction in five others. No unanticipated clinical or laboratory toxicity was seen. A 23 week study of 25patients comparing the therapeutic effect of colchicine (0.6– 1.8 mg per day) with placebo was reported in 1993.45 No For a disease as prevalent as PsA, the evidence base significant difference was noted between colchicine or demonstrating efficacy of therapy with traditional DMARDs is very limited. There are data that demonstrate marginal (Lansbury joint counts) or any of the seven secondary efficacy of sulfasalazine and perhaps gold in the treatment of outcome measures. No change in the psoriasis was noted during active or placebo treatment. Adverse clinical effects Methotrexate and ciclosporin are effective for treating the were reported more often during treatment with colchicine rash but evidence for improvement of the arthropathy is (14 patients) than with the placebo (four patients), resulting empirical; at present these have not been systematically studied. None of the traditional DMARDs have been shown 20 Clegg DO, Reda DJ, Abdellatif M. Comparison of sulfasalazine and placebo for the treatment of axial and peripheral articular manifestations of the to prevent radiological progression nor to impact significantly seronegative spondylarthropathies: a Department of Veterans Affairs on axial disease, dactylitis, or enthesitis. With renewed cooperative study. Arthritis Rheum 1999;42:2325–9.
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