Sex differences with regard to clinical manifestations and response to tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi) have been delineated for the radiographic form of axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA). More limited evidence for a differential effectiveness of treatment in genders exists for the nonradiographic disease state (nr-axSpA). The aim of the study was to compare demographics, clinical parameters, and response to TNFi in women versus men with nr-axSpA.
We compared disease characteristics of 264 women and 231 men with nr-axSpA at inclusion in the prospective Swiss Clinical Quality Management Cohort. Response to a first TNFi was assessed in 85 women and 78 men without diagnosed co-morbid fibromyalgia. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients achieving the 40% improvement in the Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society criteria (ASAS40) at 1 year. Additional response outcomes were evaluated as secondary outcomes. Patients having discontinued TNFi were considered non-responders. Logistic regression analyses were adjusted for baseline differences, which might potentially mediate the effect of sex on treatment response.
Compared to men, women had a longer diagnostic delay, a higher level of perceived disease activity, and more enthesitis and were in a lower percentage HLA-B27 positive. An ASAS40 response was achieved by 17% of women and 38% of men (OR 0.34; 95% CI 0.12, 0.93; p = 0.02). A significantly lower response rate in women was confirmed in the adjusted analysis (OR 0.19; 95% CI 0.05, 0.62; p = 0.009) as well as for the other outcomes assessed.
Despite only few sex differences in patient characteristics in nr-axSpA, response rates to TNFi are significantly lower in women than in men.