Objectives: To obtain information on the profile of patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), disease activity, previous and current treatments, and the proportion and profile of patients treated with conventional medications but considered eligible for anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) therapy.
Methods: Participants were rheumatologists from seven Central and Eastern European countries who were considered experts in the treatment of AS and were to include 3-5 patients who had never received anti-TNF therapy. Rheumatologists were asked to decide whether they considered their patients candidates for anti-TNF therapy.
Results: A total of 1506 patients were analysed. Overall, 61% of AS patients who had never received anti-TNF therapy until the time of the survey were considered candidates for anti-TNF therapy based on the clinical judgement of their rheumatologists. This proportion ranged from 40% in Slovakia to 84% in Romania. Candidates had higher levels of disease activity and functional impairment, and they were more likely to report a lower quality of life. Only 38% of candidates fulfilled the Assessment in Ankylosing Spondylitis (ASAS) recommendations with respect to a Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index (BASDAI) of at least 4 combined with previous use of at least two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ranging from 18% in Poland to 57% in Hungary.
Conclusion: More than half of AS patients currently treated with other medications may be eligible for anti-TNF therapy. Also, rheumatologists regarded disease activity as the determining factor for starting anti-TNF drugs, but their decision did not always fully comply with the ASAS recommendations, confirming the need for continued exchange among the medical community to increase awareness of the ASAS recommendations.