Disease activity in women with ankylosing spondylitis remains higher under Tumour Necrosis Factor inhibitor treatment than in men: a five-year observational study

T. Rusman*, M. T. Nurmohamed, S. Hoekstra, C. J. van Denderen, R. F. van Vollenhoven, M. Boers, M. M. Ter Wee, I. E. van der Horst-Bruinsma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To assess sex differences in response, level of disease activity, and drug survival in tumour necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi)-naïve ankylosing spondylitis (AS) patients. Method: Consecutive AS patients, fulfilling the modified New York criteria, were included in a prospective cohort study at initiation of the first TNFi and followed until this medication was stopped (drug survival). Disease activity scores [AS Disease Activity Score using C-reactive protein (ASDAS-CRP), Bath AS Disease Activity Index (BASDAI), and CRP] were measured at 3, 6, and 12 months, and every subsequent year, up to 5 years. The response was defined by the ASDAS-CRP response criteria (clinically important improvement: ASDAS-CRP decrease ≥ 1.1). Analyses included regression methods for repeated measurements and survival analyses. Results: Overall, 356 patients were included (34% women, mean ± sd age 46 ± 12 years), with a median disease duration of 12 (interquartile range 6;20) years. Women were less likely than men to achieve a clinically important response after 6 months of TNFi treatment (47% vs 64%; relative risk 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1;1.9, p = 0.02], despite a lack of sex differences in mean ASDAS-CRP levels over 5 year follow-up. Adjusted models for BASDAI over 5 years showed that women had a 0.6 point higher BASDAI score than men (β = 0.6 0.1;1.1 <0.02). Numerically, more women than men discontinued treatment over a period of 5 years (hazard ratio = 1.5, 95% CI 0.9;2.5, p = 0.15). Conclusion: Female AS patients show a lower response to TNFi and a higher disease activity compared to men.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Rheumatology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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