BACKGROUND Treatment options for patients with ankylosing spondylitis are few. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of infliximab, an antibody to tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, in treatment of such patients.
Methods: In this 12-week placebo-controlled multicentre study, we randomly assigned 35 patients with active ankylosing spondylitis to intravenous infliximab (5 mg/kg) and 35 to placebo at weeks 0, 2, and 6. One patient in the infliximab group was withdrawn from the study. Our primary outcome was regression of disease activity of at least 50%. To assess response, we used validated clinical criteria from the ankylosing spondylitis assessment working group, including disease activity (BASDAI), functional indices (BASFI), metrology (BASMI), and quality of life (short form 36). Analyses were done by intention to treat.
Findings: 18 (53%) of 34 patients on infliximab had a regression of disease activity at week 12 of at least 50% compared with three (9%) of 35 on placebo (difference 44% [95% CI 23-61], p<0.0001). Function and quality of life also improved significantly on infliximab but not on placebo (p<0.0001 and p<0.0001, respectively). Treatment with infliximab was generally well tolerated, but three patients had to stop treatment because of systemic tuberculosis, allergic granulomatosis of the lung, or mild leucopenia.
Interpretation: Our results show that treatment with infliximab is effective in patients with active ankylosing spondylitis. Since there are some potentially serious adverse effects, we recommend that this treatment mainly be used in co-operation with rheumatological centres.