Update of the literature review on treatment with biologics as a basis for the first update of the ASAS/EULAR management recommendations of ankylosing spondylitis

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012 Aug;51(8):1378-87. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kes026. Epub 2012 Mar 16.


Objective: To perform a literature review as basis for the update of the Assessment in SpondyloArthritis international Society/European League Against Rheumatism (ASAS/EULAR) treatment recommendations with biologics in AS.

Methods: A literature search of all publications found in MedLine, Embase and Cochrane database between 2005 and 2009 and in the EULAR/ACR meetings between 2007 and 2009 was performed. The research evidence and strength of recommendation (SOR) for biologics were provided.

Results: Out of 247 reports on AS treatment with biologics, 98 contained efficacy data and 25 had complete data for analysis. The treatment effect sizes (95% CI) for anti-TNF vs placebo varied between 0.34 (0.08, 0.6) and 1.5 (0.45, 2.5) for BASDAI and 0.33 (0.07, 0.59) and 2.5 (1.3, 3.7) for BASFI. The calculation of the numbers needed to treat all the different outcomes varied between 2.3 and 3.0 patients for all ASAS outcomes and between 2.7 and 6.5 patients for ASAS partial remission. Data on biologics other than anti-TNF and for TNF blockers on juvenile SpA were limited. The incidence rates of uveitis during anti-TNF treatment varied between 4.4/100 patient-years (pys) and 15.6/100 pys during placebo (P < 0.05). The incidence rates of IBD flares were significantly less during infliximab treatment (0.2/100 pys). The rate of infections was higher in patients treated with anti-TNF as compared with placebo, but there was no difference in the incidence of serious infections for treatment with anti-TNF vs placebo.

Conclusions: The overall evidence was very high for anti-TNF treatment (1b, SOR: A) with respect to efficacy and safety, while it was low for biologic treatment other than anti-TNF (3, SOR: C).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / therapeutic use


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha