To study long-term outcomes in patients with CNS demyelinating events exposed to TNFa-inhibitors (TNFai), including subsequent clinical relapse, MRI lesions, and use of disease modifying therapy (DMT) for MS.
Adult patients evaluated for a CNS demyelinating disease during TNFai use were identified at Mass General Brigham [01/1998-08/2020] and analyzed in clinically-relevant subgroups. Inclusion criteria required a first neurological event while taking a TNFai, MRI lesions consistent with demyelination, and the absence of a more probable alternative diagnosis.
21 cases (mean age 44 years, 20 female, 14 ≥ 2 MS risk factors) had an index neurological event (INE) at a median of 12 months (range 1-176) from onset of TNFai use (adalimumab in 10, etanercept 6, infliximab 5). MRI lesions were most often present in periventricular (16/20, 80%) and spinal zones (10/20, 50%); 37% (7/19) met ≥ 2 Barkhof criteria at onset. CSF testing was abnormal in 64% (7/11). 67% (10/15) with available follow-up MRIs developed new lesions by a median of 29.5 months of MRI surveillance (median MRI surveillance 60 months); 55% (11/20) met ≥ 2 Barkhof criteria. 47% (8/17) suffered a clinical relapse by a median of 40.5 months of clinic follow-up (median clinic follow-up since INE: 26 months). In patients discontinuing TNFai (18/21, 86%) at INE onset, 56% (10/18) had further evidence of CNS demyelination. Six patients (6/21, 29%) started an MS disease modifying therapy (DMT) at INE of whom 50% (3/6) had subsequent disease activity. Continuing or restarting TNFai was followed by relapse in 75% (3/4). 65% (13/20) met 2017 McDonald criteria for MS at INE with another 10% (15/20, 75%) by study conclusion.
With extended follow-up, a majority of patients had a relapsing CNS demyelinating disorder-as evidenced by new MRI lesions or clinical relapses-despite TNFai discontinuation.

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.