Based on the best available data to date, certolizumab pegol is likely the best treatment choice for women with psoriasis who become pregnant, Francisco A. Kerdel, BSc, MBBS, said at the Skin Disease Education Foundation’s annual Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar.

Professor and vice chair of the department of dermatology at Florida International University, Miami. Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Francisco A. Kerdel

Dr. Kerdel, professor and vice chair of the department of dermatology at Florida International University, Miami, noted that, while tumor necrosis factor (TNF)–alpha inhibitors are category B drugs, inadequate data exist regarding lactation and exposure throughout pregnancy. “Rates of malformations and spontaneous abortions with therapy are similar to those in the general population, higher concentrations of infliximab and adalimumab have been found in infant and cord blood, compared with certolizumab pegol,” an anti-TNF biologic, he said.

In a prospective, postmarketing, multicenter pharmacokinetic study, researchers found a lack of placental transfer of certolizumab pegol during pregnancy (Ann Rheum Dis. 2018;77:228-33). Specifically, certolizumab levels were below the lower limit of quantification (less than 0.032 mcg/mL) in 13 of 14 infant samples at birth and in all infant samples at weeks 4 and 8. Only one infant had a minimal certolizumab level at birth (infant/mother ratio of 0.0009). No antibodies were detected at any time point during the study. Safety data in mothers were in line with the known safety profile of certolizumab and pregnancy profile of these underlying diseases. Adverse events experienced by the infants did not show any patterns or clusters of events suggesting a specific safety signal in children.

In a separate postmarketing pharmacokinetic study, investigators evaluated the transfer of certolizumab into breast milk (Ann Rheum Dis. 2017;76:1890-6). They found that the average daily infant dose of certolizumab was minimal. Specifically, the highest concentration of certolizumab in breast milk (0.0758 mcg/mL) was less than 1% of the expected mean plasma trough concentration of a therapeutic dose.

How do TNF-alpha inhibitors fare in the pediatric population? In a retrospective study of 390 children with psoriasis treated at 20 centers in the United States, Canada, and Europe, researchers evaluated the safety of systemic agents (JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153[11]:1147-57). Most (69%) were prescribed methotrexate, followed by biologics, acitretin, cyclosporine, and fumaric acid. Drug discontinuation (because of adverse events), which is sometimes used as an efficacy parameter, occurred in 12% of those who were on methotrexate, compared with 3% of those on biologics, 67% of those on acitretin, and 68% of those on fumaric acid.

At the other end of the age spectrum, biologic therapy is generally effective and well tolerated in elderly patients. “Sometimes, they may be more effective than other traditional drugs,” Dr. Kerdel said. “We’re a little bit concerned about immunosenescence, which can increase the risk for severe infections and malignancies. And, 90% of elderly patients with psoriasis may have comorbidities that need to be taken into account when treating psoriasis.”

Other factors come into play when choosing the right anti-TNF agent, including weight. While clinical trials show efficacy across weight groups, infliximab has weight-based dosing, “which may make it a better choice,” Dr. Kerdel said. “Patients taking etanercept may need a biweekly dose.”

Treatment flexibility also comes into play. For example, stopping therapy because of an infection or surgery may be problematic in drugs with a long half-life. Then there’s the issue of patient preference. “Some people don’t want to be injected frequently,” he said. “Some people don’t want to be injected at all and may require a simpler dosing regimen.”

Optimizing anti-TNF-alpha treatment starts with recognizing that there is a loss of response over time, Dr. Kerdel said, “or there may not be a response at all.” Contributing factors may include immunogenicity, suboptimal dosing, and poor patient adherence. In order to optimize treatment, clinicians can try switching agents or combination therapy, and explore continuous versus intermittent dosing.

“We really don’t have good data on the best protocol for switching treatment after failure of an anti-TNF-alpha agent,” he added. In cases of primary and secondary treatment failure, there is no consensus or guidelines on which second-line agent to use, nor good data on which measures to use.

No evidence-based guidelines are available for screening and monitoring patients receiving biologic therapy for psoriasis, either. “Evidence is strongest [grade B] for tuberculosis screening in patients treated with biologic agents,” Dr. Kerdel said. “Among known hepatitis B virus carriers, consider monitoring liver function tests and viral load [grade C]. High-grade evidence is lacking to support other routine testing. Physicians should use clinical judgment when screening and monitoring patients.”

He concluded his presentation by noting that there are a number of biosimilar agents available or in the pipeline for infliximab, adalimumab, and etanercept. This raises a number of questions for current and future consideration. For one, “will biosimilars show the same long-term efficacy and safety as the innovator products?” he asked. “Real-world, postmarketing, and registry data are needed. Will biosimilar agents offer significant cost benefits? Will biosimilar labeling be adequately transparent? Will we find biomarkers to help us target biologic agents to specific patients and subtypes of psoriasis?”

Dr. Kerdel reported that he is a member of the speaker’s bureau for AbbVie, Amgen, Celgene, Janssen, Novartis, Lilly, Leo, Ortho, and Novartis. He has also received grant/research support from AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Janssen, Leo, Lilly, Menlo Therapeutics, Novartis, Pfizer, and XBiotech.

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