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NEWS

Certain Psoriasis Biologics May Increase Risks of Serious Infection, Study Finds

Posted on November 02, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Emily Wagner, M.S.

  • A recent study found certain biologic medications for treating psoriasis can increase a person’s risk of infection.
  • The study found infection risks increased by 22 percent for users of adalimumab and 79 percent for those taking infliximab, compared to those who took etanercept. The risk of infection was reduced for those taking ustekinumab.
  • These findings only represent one study, and people taking these medications should consult their doctor or a health care professional.

Two biologics for treating psoriasis, adalimumab and infliximab, may put new users at a relatively higher risk of developing a serious infection, according to a recent study. The study, published in JAMA Dermatology, also found that some other biologics did not increase infection rates compared to etanercept — and that ustekinumab was associated with a lower risk of infection.

Biologics are human-made proteins that work by dampening the immune system. These drugs are useful for treating autoimmune diseases where the immune system is attacking the body’s healthy tissues. However, they also limit the immune system’s ability to fight off infections from bacteria and viruses.

“Prior observational studies have provided conflicting results on the risk of infection related to use of biologics,” according to the researchers, per The American Journal of Managed Care. Given these previous conflicting findings, the research team wanted to conduct the study in a large group of participants to better determine which biologics increased the risk of infection.

Biologic Drugs for Psoriasis

There are several different biologics that are prescribed to treat moderate to severe psoriasis. Each drug targets a different part of the immune system that has been overactivated, causing the disease.

The researchers studied the two main classes of biologics: TNF inhibitors and interleukin (IL) inhibitors. The TNF inhibitors included:

  • Adalimumab (sold under the brand name Humira)
  • Certolizumab (sold under the brand name Cimzia)
  • Etanercept (sold under the brand name Enbrel)
  • Infliximab (sold under the brand name Remicade)

The IL inhibitors included:

  • Brodalumab (sold under the brand name Siliq) — IL-17 inhibitor
  • Guselkumab (sold under the brand name Tremfya) — IL-17 inhibitor
  • Ixekizumab (sold under the brand name Taltz) — IL-17 inhibitor
  • Secukinumab (sold under the brand name Cosentyx) — IL-17 inhibitor
  • Ustekinumab (sold under the brand name Stelara) — IL-12/23 inhibitor

Study Results

The study, conducted in France, followed 44,239 people who were new users of biologic medications or apremilast (sold under the brand name Otezla), an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat psoriasis. The researchers excluded individuals with HIV or previous history of cancer, transplant, or recent serious infection.

Overall, there were 1,656 cases of serious infections. The most common of those were gastrointestinal (645), and skin and subcutaneous tissues (324). The average time for these infections to develop after beginning biologic treatment was nine months.

The researchers found that the risk of serious infection increased for new users of adalimumab (by 22 percent) and infliximab (by 79 percent) when compared to those who took etanercept.

On the other hand, the risk of developing a serious infection was reduced by 21 percent for new users of ustekinumab, compared to those who took etanercept. They also found that there was no increased risk of infection for those taking secukinumab, ixekizumab, brodalumab, guselkumab, and apremilast.

The Takeaway

It is important to note that these study findings do not mean that everyone will develop a serious infection after taking these medications. Other observational studies are needed to confirm results for the most recent drugs, according to the researchers. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your current medication.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Emily Wagner, M.S. holds a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology. She is passionate about immunology, cancer biology, and molecular biology. Learn more about her here.

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