Publication Date



BMJ Open


OBJECTIVE: This study examined the safety and efficacy of biological agents, especially tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, for HIV-positive rheumatology patients refractory to standard therapy.

METHODS: This study is a retrospective case series including patients derived from a community HIV clinic as well as from two academic centres. Initial visit data collected included: sociodemographic characteristics, CD4 counts, HIV viral load and medication use. Patients with persistent disease activity despite standard conservative therapy were begun on biological agents.The main outcomes were patient and physician global assessment of treatment response and medication side effects in patients with rheumatological disorders treated with biological medications over time.

RESULTS: Seventeen patients were seen from 2003 to 2021, including eight from our previous cohort published in 2008 and nine seen since then, five of whom taking TNF blockers for more than 10 years. Three (17.7%) had rheumatoid arthritis, five (29.4%) psoriatic arthritis, four (23.5%) axial spondyloarthritis and the rest (29.4%) peripheral spondyloarthritis. Antiretroviral therapy had been used in 15. All but one had at least a partial response to biological therapy. There were no major infectious episodes necessitating the discontinuation of medications with only one patient discontinuing treatment due to rising HIV viral load. Patients not on antiretroviral therapy reported no adverse side effects from biological therapy. Four patients were switched to ustekinumab, secukinumab, tocilizumab or upadacitinib from anti-TNF therapy without complications.

CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that biological therapy, especially anti-TNF agents are safe and well tolerated in HIV positive individuals even over several years.


Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Retrospective Studies, Rheumatic Diseases, Tumor Necrosis Factor Inhibitors, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha



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