Objective: Evidence indicates that tumour necrosis factor (TNF) is a major agent in the pathogenesis of vasculitis. We studied the short-term effect of anti-TNF-alpha antibody in systemic vasculitis patients refractory to steroids and immunosuppressive agents.
Methods: Ten patients refractory to corticosteroids and at least one immunosuppressant and who had persistently active disease or a new flare were included. Seven had Wegener's granulomatosis, two had rheumatoid arthritis-associated vasculitis and one had cryoglobulinaemia with mean duration of 9.1, 21.5 and 17 yr. They received infliximab (5 mg/kg) on days 1, 14, 42 and then every 8 weeks. Immunosuppressants were stopped between days 0 and 42 for eight patients, while the steroid dose was maintained or lowered. The treatment response was evaluated clinically with the Birmingham Vasculitis Activity Score 2000 (BVAS).
Results: Complete or partial remission was observed in all patients. The mean BVAS at entry was 9.1 (range 4-15) and had declined to 1.9 (range 0-4) by day 42 and 1.3 (range 0-4) at 6 months; BVAS of 0 was recorded for four patients on day 42 and for five at 6 months. The only adverse effect was cutaneous eruption in two patients.
Conclusion: Anti-TNF-alpha successfully induced prompt symptomatic responses in patients with systemic vasculitis not responding to conventional treatment. Infliximab was well tolerated during the short-term follow-up.