Use of new biologics such as ustekinumab and vedolizumab during pregnancy appears to be safe, with favorable pregnancy and postnatal infant outcomes, according to a study published in the.
The results, which come from the Czech IBD Working Group, point to the need for safe options to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) during pregnancy, wrote the researchers led by Katarina Mitrova, MD, PhD, of the Clinical and Research Centre for Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Charles University, Prague.
“As the long-term therapy can affect pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, strong evidence is needed to reassure patients about safety,” they wrote. “Recent years have seen significant progress in research around anti-TNF treatment in pregnancy, confirming its safe use, but the data on the new biologics are still limited.”
In a prospective, multicenter observational study of women with IBD, the researchers included 54 pregnancies in 49 women exposed to ustekinumab and 39 pregnancies in 37 women exposed to vedolizumab 2 months prior to conception or during pregnancy between January 2017 and December 2021 in 15 centers across the Czech Republic.
The control group of 90 pregnancies in 81 women was collected retrospectively and included pregnant women with IBD exposed to anti–tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy – 29% to adalimumab and 71% to infliximab – in two centers in the Czech Republic between 2013 and 2021. Only singleton pregnancies were included in the analyses because of the increased risk of complications in multiple pregnancies, the investigators noted.
About 94% of patients treated with ustekinumab had Crohn’s disease, while the disease distribution was nearly equal in patients treated with vedolizumab. Active disease any time during pregnancy was reported in 17% of women on ustekinumab and 23% of those on vedolizumab, as well as 10% of those on anti-TNF therapy.
Pregnancies resulted in live births in 79.9% of the ustekinumab group, 89.7% of the vedolizumab group, and 87.8% of the anti-TNF group; however, these differences were not statistically significant.
Overall, there were no significant differences in pregnancy outcomes between either the vedolizumab or ustekinumab groups or the controls. Similarly, there were no negative safety signals in the postnatal outcomes of children up to 1 year of life, including measures such as growth, psychomotor development, and the risk of allergy, atopy, or infectious complications.
Ustekinumab was administered for the last time during pregnancy at median gestational week 33, ranging from 18 to 38 weeks. Five women stopped the treatment during the second trimester, and 37 continued to use it during the third trimester. An intensified regimen, shortening the interval to 4-6 weeks, was given to 13 patients. There were no disease flares after stopping the treatment.
Vedolizumab was administered for the last time during pregnancy at median gestational week 32, ranging from 18 to 38 weeks. Seven women discontinued the treatment during the second trimester, and 27 continued to use it in the third trimester. An intensified regimen was used in six pregnancies. No disease relapse was observed after treatment discontinuation.
Of the pregnancies that resulted in live births, maternal pregnancy-related complications occurred in six women (14%) treated with ustekinumab and seven women (20%) treated with vedolizumab. The most frequent complication was gestational diabetes mellitus, followed by arterial hypertension, preeclampsia, and intrapartum hemorrhage. The rate of complications was not significantly different from the control population for either biologic.
On the day of delivery, maternal venous blood and umbilical cord blood were collected to determine the levels of ustekinumab and vedolizumab.
Additional studies are needed because of the overall small study population, the researchers suggested.
“According to recent guidelines, continuing with biologic therapy, including new biologics, is recommended throughout pregnancy to prevent disease relapse, which is a strong risk factor of adverse pregnancy outcomes,” the researchers wrote.
“Data on the safety of non-anti-TNF biologics in pregnancy are limited by small numbers and, in many cases, retrospective design,” said Eugenia Shmidt, MD, an assistant professor in the division of gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition at the University of Minnesota and founder of the university's IBD Preconception and Pregnancy Planning Clinic. “This study’s prospective nature and larger size make it a particularly valuable contribution to the field. Hopefully IBD clinicians will be reassured that ustekinumab and vedolizumab are safe for both mother and baby and can be continued throughout the entire duration of pregnancy.”
No specific funding was received for the study. The authors listed financial disclosures and conflict of interest statements for AbbVie, Takeda, Janssen, Pfizer, Biogen, Tillotts, Ferring, Alfasigma, Celltrion, and PRO.MED.CS. Dr. Shmidt declared no relevant disclosures.
This article was updated July 18, 2022.