Newer therapeutic approaches to the vasculitides: Biologic agents
Biologic therapies have emerged as important treatments in chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and are now garnering more attention in the vasculitides. These agents, including tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors, B-cell-depleting agents, interferon-alpha, and some antiviral treatments, target specific components of the immune system and may have lower side effect risk profiles than the conventional immunosuppressives and cytotoxic agents. This article addresses the encouraging data and the possible pitfalls of these new therapeutic options, thus far evaluated mostly by case reports, small series, and open-label trials. Confirming the efficacy of existing and newer therapies will require further clinical investigation through randomized placebo-controlled studies to identify the proper doses and treatment schedules and single out those drugs that may expose patients to dangers that outweigh the potential benefits.