Objective: Uveitis is a severe manifestation of rheumatic diseases since it can lead to visual impairment and even blindness. Ocular involvement is frequently a clinical challenge because its occurrence often requires changes of the therapeutic strategy. There are growing evidence that tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) inhibitors may be an effective treatment of refractory uveitis. Purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of TNFalpha blocking agents in patients with seronegative spondylo-arthropathies (SNSA) and Behcet disease (BD) associated relapsing uveitis.
Methods: Five consecutive patients with chronic or relapsing uveitis were prospectively studied. Two patients with SNSA had recurrent anterior uveitis and three patients had BD associated uveitis (one anterior, two posterior uveitis). All of the patients were taking systemic and topical corticosteroids and three of them were also treated with DMARDs (methotrexate, cyclosporine, sulphasalazine) without clinical benefit. Four patients received infliximab, an anti-TNFalpha monoclonal antibody, at a dosage of 5 mg/kg body weight and one patient was treated with etanercept, a TNFalpha receptor p75-Fc fusion protein, at a dosage of 25 mg twice weekly.
Results: Both infliximab and etanercept induced a marked improvement in uveitis and none relapse was observed throughout all the study. Systemic corticosteroids were progressively tapered and stopped in all patients. Also methotrexate and sulphasalazine were discontinued, while cyclosporine dose has been reduced by 30%. No side effects were observed.
Conclusions: Therapy with TNFalpha blockers, infliximab and etanercept, was effective and safe in the treatment of rheumatic disease associated uveitis. A complete remission was achieved even in patients with severe steroid resistant uveitis. Further controlled studies on larger number of patients are needed to better define the different forms of ocular involvement that can benefit from the therapy with TNFalpha inhibitors.