EULAR takes SLE guidance to the next level



New systemic lupus erythematosus guidelines from the European League Against Rheumatism go far beyond the group’s previous effort in 2008, with much broader and more detailed advice.

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The goal was “to update the EULAR recommendations for the management of systemic lupus erythematosus [SLE], based on literature review and expert consensus,” said authors led by Antonis Fanouriakis, MD, PhD, of the rheumatology and clinical immunology unit at Attikon University Hospital, Athens.

The team accomplished their aim in 33 recommendations – about twice as many as in 2008 – covering goals of therapy, treatment, specific manifestations, and comorbidities (Ann Rheum Dis. 2019 Mar 29. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-215089).

A lot has changed in the past 11 years, and the new guidelines reflect that. Biologics, for instance, were barely mentioned in 2008, except as a topic for future research. The new document makes a strong recommendation for add-on belimumab (Benlysta) to be considered in persistently active or flaring extrarenal disease, and rituximab (Rituxan) for organ-threatening, refractory disease.

The group now also makes a strong recommendation for hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) for all lupus patients, barring contraindications, at a dose not exceeding 5 mg per kg real body weight, with ophthalmologic screening performed at baseline, after 5 years, and yearly thereafter. It also calls for routine antiphospholipid antibody testing.

Calcineurin inhibitors weren’t mentioned at all in 2008, but they show up in the new document with a moderate recommendation as first-line topical options for skin disease, along with glucocorticoids. The authors also made a moderate recommendation for diagnostic kidney biopsy, calling it “essential” to catch renal involvement early; EULAR was less certain in 2008. Also new in 2019, and barely mentioned in 2008, there’s an entire section on hematologic manifestations, as well as advice on thalidomide for cutaneous disease.

For hematologic disease, the group makes a weak recommendation for pulsed intravenous methylprednisolone and/or intravenous immunoglobulin, with mycophenolate, azathioprine, or cyclosporine for maintenance. Cyclophosphamide, along with rituximab, are options for severe hematologic cases.

Cardiovascular disease, like biologics, was mentioned mostly in 2008 as a topic for future research; the new guidelines contain an entire section on the issue. There’s a strong recommendation for regular assessment of traditional and disease-related risk factors, including persistently active disease; increased disease duration; medium or high titers of antiphospholipid antibodies; renal involvement; and chronic glucocorticoid use. High-risk people, the document notes, “may be candidates for preventative strategies as in the general population,” including low-dose aspirin and statins.


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