– Low-dose aspirin is recommended for the primary prevention of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) in patients at high risk for developing the condition, according to new recommendations developed by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR).

Dr. Maria G. Tektonidou National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece Sara Freeman/MDEdge News

Dr. Maria G. Tektonidou

Indeed, the NSAID should be given at a dose of between 75 mg and 100 mg per day, in patients with a “high risk” antiphospholipid (aPL) antibody profile, including asymptomatic aPL antibody carriers, patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) without APS, and in women who are not pregnant but who have a history of obstetric APS.

The recommendations, which are the first evidence-based guidelines for adult APS to be produced by EULAR, also cover the secondary prevention of APS and how to manage individuals with recurrent episodes.

The recommendations aim to help guide practice and ultimately to improve the quality of care for patients and their outcomes following treatment, Maria G. Tektonidou, MD, PhD, said at the European Congress of Rheumatology.

The guidance is necessary as “clinical practice in APS remains highly variable,” said Dr. Tektonidou of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. This is perhaps because APS is a “rare disease and also because it’s a newly recognized disease – it’s only 35 years old – and knowledge about the clinical spectrum, classification, and management is continuously advancing.”

Dr. Tektonidou, who was the convener of the EULAR Task Force that wrote the recommendations, noted that they were now published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases and considered three main groups of patients: those with thrombotic APS, those with obstetric APS, and those with catastrophic APS (CAPS). There are three overarching principles, 12 recommendations, and 29 graded statements, she said.

The three overarching principles concerned risk stratification, general measures for managing patients who test positive for aPL antibodies, and patient education and counseling on various topics, such as treatment adherence, therapeutic drug monitoring, contraceptive use, and lifestyle interventions.

Dr. Tektonidou highlighted how risk stratification was important and that a high-risk aPL profile was defined as the presence of lupus anticoagulant (LA) on at least two occasions, measured 12 weeks apart according to International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis guidelines, or the presence of two or even three aPL antibodies, or persistently high aPL antibody titers. By contrast, a low-risk aPL profile was defined as the isolated presence of anticardiolipin (aCL) or anti–beta-2 glycoprotein I antibodies at low-medium titers, particularly if transiently positive.

“Risk stratification should include the determination of the high-risk aPL profile; a prior history of thrombotic or obstetric [APS]; the coexistence of other systemic autoimmune diseases, and the presence of traditional cardiovascular risk factors,” Dr. Tektonidou said.

Four of the recommendations focus on the secondary prevention of APS, giving guidance on anticoagulant treatment with definite APS, first provoked or unprovoked venous thrombosis, and how to manage recurrent venous thrombosis. There also is a recommendation for the management of patients with definite APS and a first arterial thrombosis, outlining the type and intensity of anticoagulant therapy that should be given. Another four of the recommendations focus on the management of obstetric APS, with a focus on how to manage the various types of complications seen in pregnant women. Then the final recommendation concerns CAPS, it’s prevention and first-line treatment, and how to manage refractory patients.

Dr. Ricard Cervera of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona Sara Freeman/MDEdge News

Dr. Ricard Cervera

With regards to CAPS, Ricard Cervera, MD, PhD, of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, this is “terrible” but “thankfully rare” form of APS that was first described in the early 1990s.

Although fewer than 1% of the APS adult population have CAPS (Arthritis Rheum. 2002;46[4]:1019-27), it’s a condition in which several thrombotic events occur simultaneously, affecting multiple systems or organs and which can be life threatening if not treated quickly.

New treatment guidelines for catastrophic APS

During a separate clinical science session at the conference, Dr. Cervera discussed the development of treatment guidelines for CAPS, noting that this had been one of the focus points of the McMaster RARE-Bestpractices project group in 2016. The group selected CAPS for a pilot exercise in guideline development for a rare disease and published their recommendations in 2018 (J Thromb Haemost. 2018;16:1656-64). Ten recommendations were developed, most of which were conditional, Dr. Cervera said, due to the lack of, or very low certainty, of the evidence.

The new EULAR 2019 adult APS recommendations now include CAPS and recommendation number 12 is split into two parts. The first, part A, states that prompt treatment of infections is needed in all patients positive for aPL antibodies and that anticoagulation should have minimal interruption or be used at level to help prevent the development of CAPS.

The second, part B, states that the first-line treatment of CAPS should be a triple combination therapy of glucocorticoids, heparin, and plasma exchange, or intravenous immunoglobulins, rather than single-agent treatment. Plus, it says that any triggering factor should be treated accordingly.

“Finally,” Dr. Cervera said, “in patients with refractory CAPS, B-cell depletion with rituximab or complement inhibitors, for example eculizumab, may be considered.”

The adult APS recommendations project was funded by EULAR. Dr. Tektonidou and Dr. Cervera reported having no relevant conflicts of interest.

SOURCES: Tektonidou M. Ann Rheum Dis. Jun 2019;78(Suppl 2):59-60. Abstract SP0191, doi: 0.1136/annrheumdis-2019-eular.8601; and Cervera R et al. Ann Rheum Dis. Jun 2019;78(Suppl 2):62. Abstract SP0201. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2019-eular.8444.