Enbrel effective in dermatomyositis

June 29, 2011

The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor etanercept (Enbrel, Amgen/Pfizer) offers dermatomyositis patients a safe and effective treatment alternative to steroids, a small pilot study has found.

Boston - The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor etanercept (Enbrel, Amgen/Pfizer) offers dermatomyositis patients a safe and effective treatment alternative to steroids, a small pilot study has found.

Researchers led by Anthony Amato, M.D., of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, enrolled 16 patients with new or refractory dermatomyositis, most of whom were receiving 40 mg to 45 mg daily of the steroid prednisone, MedPage Today reports. Eleven patients were assigned to receive subcutaneous etanercept, 50 mg each week, while the rest received placebo. Patients also received prednisone, 60 mg a day. Gradual tapering of the steroid dose was planned over 24 weeks, so that by week 25, patients would no longer be taking prednisone unless they were unable to tolerate the taper.

Results of the study show that five of the 11 etanercept patients were gradually able to stop taking prednisone, while none of the five placebo patients were able to taper their steroids. As background, investigators wrote that treatment for the inflammatory myopathy dermatomyositis has been inadequate, with many patients experiencing severe weakness even when given prednisone, the first-line treatment, and second-line agents such as methotrexate. Moreover, long-term use of prednisone is associated with significant adverse effects.

“The findings of no major safety concerns and a steroid-sparing effect in our study suggest that further investigation of etanercept as a treatment for (dermatomyositis) is warranted,” the authors concluded.