Conference Coverage

Physicians question the future of TNF inhibitors for psoriasis, PsA



Accessibility weighs heavily in using TNF inhibitor first

Clinical trials data show that IL-17 inhibitors outperform TNF inhibitors for psoriasis, but in clinical practice, TNF inhibitors still perform very well in individual patients and are well tolerated, said Amit Garg, MD, founding chair of the department of dermatology at Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

Dr. Amit Garg, founding chair of the department of dermatology at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell Health, New York

Dr. Amit Garg

He argued in favor of TNF inhibitors as first-line therapy over IL-17 inhibitors for psoriasis. In this case, treatment decisions often come down to accessibility, Dr. Garg said. Not all insurance companies cover the cost of the newer IL-23 inhibitors. Plus, access to TNF inhibitors is widespread and costs are generally lower.

“As a physician, I don’t have complete autonomy in prescribing what I want. The reality is whether it be because of cross indication or discount pricing, [TNF inhibitors] – in particular adalimumab – is widely available on all plans and is usually the preferred treatment plan, at least in our area,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of plans that allow drugs at low or no cost for a year or 2, and then abandon the patients at that point thereafter. I like to use something that insurance will cover sustainably, and, quite frankly, TNFs have served well in that regard.”

However, TNF inhibitors are associated with more safety signals, plus they carry a greater risk of infection, leading to tolerability and persistence issues with patients.

“Psoriasis is a lifelong disease. I wish I could tell you that every drug is going to work well forever for individual patients, but I don’t think we know that yet. From my perspective, for efficacy, general well tolerance, convenience, and access, TNFs are still an important part of our ability to treat psoriasis effectively. I have no problem starting there and transitioning as needed for individual patients.

“In my experience, I think patients on TNFs generally do well. We don’t always get the patients clear and certainly there’s drop off of efficacy over time, but I’m not sure that’s a rationale for [changing treatment],” Dr. Garg said.

Ying Ying (Katy) Leung, MD, a rheumatologist with Singapore General Hospital, and a member of the GRAPPA peripheral arthritis working group, argued against the use of IL-17 and IL-23 inhibitors as first-line treatment for PsA over TNF inhibitors. She reasoned that TNF blockers are more accessible, have more long-term safety data (including data indicating safety during pregnancy), and have better cardiovascular protection. She also noted that GRAPPA treatment recommendations strongly advise using TNF blockers (or IL-17 inhibitors) for treatment-naive patients with PsA.

“Accessibility is very important as I learned along the way of leading the peripheral arthritis [GRAPPA] working group. Accessibility [issues] can be coming from a lot of sources, but if you don’t take good care of accessibility, you might be developing a guideline that is way out of reality and nobody is going to use it,” she said.

In her native Singapore, Dr. Leung said that patients pay for biologics out of pocket, so cost is a key factor for her patients. She stated that adalimumab is available as a biosimilar at about $200 monthly for patients with PsA in Singapore, while the average monthly costs are $1,400 for originator infliximab and $1,500 for originator etanercept. By comparison, secukinumab sells for about $750 monthly, ixekizumab $540 monthly, and guselkumab $2,000 monthly.

Treatment choices should be aligned with the disease manifestations of PsA, Dr. Leung said, keeping in mind that accessibility and individual patient needs and preferences should be considered as well. She conducted an informal comparison that found TNF inhibitors are most effective for patients with uveitis or inflammatory bowel disease. Evidence from head-to-head studies indicates that TNF inhibitors and IL-17 inhibitors have similar efficacy for peripheral arthritis, enthesitis, and dactylitis. But caution is warranted, she suggested, for determining the best biologics for axial disease because no head-to-head comparison trials have been conducted for IL-17 or IL-23 inhibitors versus TNF inhibitors.

Dr. Armstrong has been a consultant to AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dermira, Genzyme, Incyte, Janssen, Leo Pharma, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, and UCB. Dr. Jadon has been a consultant to, has been on speakers bureaus for, and has received grant/research support from AbbVie, Amgen, Celgene, Celltrion, Gilead, Janssen, Eli Lilly, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sandoz, and UCB. Dr. Garg has consulted for AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen, and UCB. Dr. Leung has been a consultant to AbbVie, Boehringer Ingelheim, Janssen, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and Pfizer. She has been on speakers bureaus for AbbVie, Janssen Eli Lilly, and Novartis. She has received grant/research support from Pfizer and conference support from AbbVie,


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