From the Journals

Methotrexate-associated hepatotoxicity risk differs between psoriasis, PsA, and RA patients



Patients taking methotrexate for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) were at a higher risk of developing liver disease than were patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on methotrexate, in a large population-based study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Illustration of human liver Wavebreakmedia Ltd/

“These findings suggest that conservative liver monitoring is warranted in patients receiving methotrexate for psoriatic disease,” particularly psoriasis, the investigators concluded.

Joel M. Gelfand, MD,  a professor, and director of the Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Dr. Joel M. Gelfand

Joel M. Gelfand, MD, professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues performed a population-based cohort study of patients in Denmark in a hospital clinic with psoriasis, PsA, or RA who received methotrexate between 1997 and 2015; they compared rates of mild liver disease, moderate to severe liver disease, cirrhosis, and cirrhosis-related hospitalization between the groups.

In total, 5,687 patients with psoriasis, 6,520 patients with PsA, and 28,030 patients with RA met inclusion criteria: receiving one or more methotrexate prescriptions or having been dispensed methotrexate at the hospital clinic during the study period. Patients with RA tended to be older (mean, 59.7 years) and the group consisted of more women (71.6%) than the psoriasis patients (47.7 years; 45.3% women) or PsA patients (50.7 years; 57.3% women). In the groups, 17.9% to 23.5% had a history of smoking, and 2.8% to 7.4% had a history of alcohol abuse; the rates of diabetes were between 7.0% and 8.3%, and hyperlipidemia or statin use between 13.6% and 16.4%.

The average weekly methotrexate dose was similar in the three patient groups (a mean of 19.2-19.9 mg). However, the duration of methotrexate use among patients with RA was longer (a mean of 72.1 weeks) compared with the PsA (56.3 weeks) and psoriasis (43.0 weeks) groups. In addition, 50% of the patients in the RA group discontinued treatment after 80 months, 50% in the PsA group discontinued after 54 months, and 50% of patients with psoriasis discontinued after 26 months.

Patients with RA also had a higher cumulative methotrexate dose (a mean of 4.0 g) compared with PsA (3.0 g) and psoriasis (2.1) groups.

When the researchers looked at the incidence rate (IR) for the different categories of liver disease, they found the following differences:

  • Mild liver disease: The IR per 1,000 person-years for patients with psoriasis was 4.22 per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval, 3.61-4.91), compared with 2.39 per 1,000 person-years (95% CI, 1.95-2.91) for patients with PsA, and 1.39 per 1,000 person-years (95% CI, 1.25-1.55) for patients with RA.
  • Moderate to severe liver disease: The IR for patients with psoriasis was 0.98 per 1,000 person years (95% CI, 0.70-1.33), compared with 0.51 (95% CI, 0.32-0.77) for patients with PsA, and 0.46 (95% CI, 0.37-0.55) for patients with RA.
  • Cirrhosis: The IR for patients with psoriasis was 1.89 per 1,000 person years (95% CI, 1.49-2.37), compared with 0.84 (95% CI, 0.59-1.16) for patients with PsA, and 0.42 (95% CI, 0.34-0.51) for patients with RA.
  • Cirrhosis-related hospitalization: This was the least common outcome, with an IR per 1,000 person years of 0.73 (95% CI, 0.49-1.05) for patients with psoriasis, 0.32 (95% CI, 0.18-0.54) for patients with PsA, and 0.22 (95% CI, 0.17-0.29) for patients with RA.


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