To examine the long-term outcome of patients with active ankylosing spondylitis (AS) clinically and by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) after continuous treatment with the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor fusion protein etanercept over 2 years.
Overall, 26 patients with active AS were treated with etanercept 25 mg twice daily subcutaneously, twice weekly with no concomitant disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or steroids. The clinical response was assessed by standardized parameters. Inflammatory spinal lesions were quantified by the ASspiMRI-a rating gadolinium-enhanced (T1-weighted gadolinium diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid) and STIR MRI sequences. The primary outcome was a Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI) improvement ≥50% after 2 years of etanercept therapy compared with the baseline value of the study.
Overall, 21 (70%) of 30 patients completed year 2. In the intent-to-treat analysis, 54% of the patients showed a 50% improvement according to the BASDAI and a 40% improvement according to the Assessment in Ankylosing Spondylitis (ASAS) criteria. In the completer analysis, 9 (43%) of 21 patients were in partial remission according to ASAS criteria. Mean ± SD BASDAI scores, which were elevated at baseline (6.3 ± 1.6), remained low: 2.7 ± 2.4 after 2 years compared with 2.6 ± 2.2 at week 54. In accordance, all other clinical parameters showed sustained improvement during year 2. The majority of patients had no disease activity flares. MRI evaluation showed a 75% improvement of active spinal lesions, but minor spinal inflammation was still present in 64% of the patients after 2 years. There were 2 serious adverse events leading to discontinuation of etanercept.
The clinical efficacy and safety of etanercept in patients with active AS without simultaneous administration of DMARDs or steroids over 2 years of continuous treatment is confirmed. Spinal inflammation as depicted by MRI decreased significantly, but a few patients still had some spinal inflammation even after long-term anti–TNF therapy.