Objective: To evaluate the safety of etanercept (Enbrel) in patients receiving conventional treatment for Wegener's granulomatosis (WG).
Methods: We performed a 6-month open-label trial of etanercept (25 mg subcutaneously twice weekly) which was added to standard therapies for WG (glucocorticoids, methotrexate, cyclophosphamide, azathioprine, cyclosporine) and prescribed according to disease severity. Evaluations of clinical response were determined by the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score for WG (BVAS/WG) in 20 patients with persistently active disease or with new flares of previously established WG. Fourteen of the 20 patients (70%) had etanercept added as the only new therapeutic variable.
Results: Injection site reactions (ISRs) were the most common adverse event related to etanercept (8 episodes in 5 patients [25%]; < 1% of all injections). All ISRs were mild. Two patients had a combined total of 5 hospitalizations (1 patient had 4), but no hospitalizations were attributable solely to etanercept-related adverse events. One patient with severe subglottic stenosis developed pneumococcal tracheobronchitis and subsequently had a localized Herpes zoster infection. Nineteen patients (95%) were still taking etanercept at 6 months, the single exception being a patient who developed progression of orbital (retro-bulbar) disease at 4 months. There were no deaths. The mean BVAS/WG at entry was 3.6 (range 1-8), which decreased at 6 months to 0.6 (P < 0.001, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] -4.0 to -2.1). Among the 14 patients in whom etanercept was the only new treatment variable, the mean daily prednisone dose decreased from 12.9 mg at entry to 6.4 mg at 6 months. This comparison did not achieve statistical significance (difference -6.5; P = 0.19, 95% CI -16.6 to +3.6). Sixteen of the patients (80%) achieved BVAS/WG scores of 0 at some point. However, intermittently active disease was observed in 15 patients (75%).
Conclusion: In this open-label trial, etanercept used in combination with standard treatments was well-tolerated in patients with WG. Adverse events were few. BVAS/WG scores improved at 6 months, but intermittently active WG (occasionally severe) was common. A randomized, double-masked trial to assess the efficacy of etanercept in WG has begun.