OBJECTIVES: Hepatitis B (HBV) infection, which is prevalent worldwide, is also frequently seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The Italian Society of Rheumatology (SIR) and the Italian Society of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (SIMIT) endorsed a national consensus process to review the available evidence on HBV management in RA patients and to produce practical, hospital-wide recommendations.
METHODS: The consensus panel consisted of infectious disease consultants, rheumatologists and epidemiologists and used the criteria of the Oxford Center for Evidence-based Medicine to assess the quality of the evidence and the strength of their recommendations.
RESULTS: A core-set of statements has been developed to help clinicians in the management of patients with RA and HBV infection. Vaccination and prophylaxis of RA patients treated with biological drugs have been also discussed.
CONCLUSIONS: HBV infection is not rare in clinical practice; a screening for HBV in all patients with early arthritis is not universally accepted, while it is considered mandatory before starting any immunosuppressive or hepatotoxic treatment. In fact, a specific risk, associated with the use of biologic treatments, exists for patients with HBV infection, although longitudinal studies of viral reactivation are generally reassuring. RA patients with HBV infection should be referred to the hepatologist and correctly classified into active or inactive carriers. Patients with active hepatitis B should undergo antiviral treatment before starting immunosuppressive treatments. Occult HBV carriers should be monitored or receive prophylaxis on the basis of the risk of reactivation associated with the administered treatment.
- Journal Article