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Tapering or discontinuation of biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs in axial spondyloarthritis: A review of the literature and discussion on current practice

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

Casper Webers, Elena Nikiphorou, Annelies Boonen, Sofia Ramiro

Original languageEnglish
Article number105482
Pages (from-to)105482
Issue number1
Early online date3 Nov 2022
Accepted/In press26 Oct 2022
E-pub ahead of print3 Nov 2022
PublishedJan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: None. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Authors

King's Authors


Biological disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs) have taken up an important role in the management of axial spondyloarthritis. Once stable remission or low disease activity has been achieved with bDMARDs, it may be possible to maintain this state with lower levels of these drugs. Studies consistently demonstrate that tapering of tumor necrosis factor alpha inhibitors (TNFi) is not inferior to full-dose continuation in terms of maintaining treatment response, while data for tapering of interleukin-17 inhibitors (IL-17i) is lacking. Complete discontinuation of TNFi and IL-17i, however, often results in relapse and should not be recommended at this moment. Clear safety benefits of tapering or discontinuation have not been shown, although studies were typically not designed to address this. Current evidence does not support specific tapering or discontinuation strategies, although stepwise disease activity-guided regimens do allow for a more personalized approach and might be preferred. The definition of what constitutes an appropriate disease state to initiate tapering or discontinuation is unclear, and requires further study. Also, reliable predictors of successful tapering and discontinuation have not yet been identified. Fortunately, if tapering or discontinuation fails, most patients are able to regain disease control when reverted to the original bDMARD regimen. Finally, most patients indicate that, when asked, they would be willing to try tapering if the rationale is clear and if it is in their best interests. The decision to taper or discontinue should be made through shared decision-making, as this could improve the likelihood of success.

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