American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting
American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting
Perspective from ​Donald Thomas, MD
November 14, 2019
2 min read

Vasculitis guidelines support first-line biologic therapies in certain patients

Perspective from ​Donald Thomas, MD
You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Sharon Chung

ATLANTA — Increased use of glucocorticoid-sparing agents is one of the key recommendations in a guideline document that covers seven vasculitis diseases, according to a speaker at ACR/ARP 2019.

“This is the first set of guidelines for the vasculitides from the ACR, and the first such partnership with the Vasculitis Foundation,” Sharon Chung, MD, an assistant professor of rheumatology at the University of California, San Francisco, said during a press conference. “They will offer some reassurance for practitioners who may not be experienced in caring for these diseases.”

The document will cover recommendations for seven different diseases that fall under the vasculitis umbrella, including giant cell arteritis (GCA), Takayasu’s syndrome (TAK), polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), Kawasaki disease, and three types of ANCA-associated vasculitides.

The recommendations will be presented in multiple documents and offer guidance for everything from diagnostic tests such as serology, imaging and biopsy, to remission induction and maintenance therapies, to managing refractory disease, to possible surgery.

“It has often not been clear what is the first medication you should reach for when treating these patients,” Chung said. “These recommendations should help with that decision-making.”

A key component of the guideline is its support for the use of biologic therapies for first-line treatment for certain patient populations, according to Chung. She suggested that this is “particularly exciting” for patients, because more biologics means less steroids. “Biologics can decrease the weight gain, mood swings and bone loss associated with steroids,” Chung said.

Specifically, there are conditional recommendations for glucocorticoid-sparing agents as first-line therapy for GCA and a conditional recommendation for reduced-dose glucocorticoids for granulomatosis with polyangiitis and microscopic polyangiitis.

Turning to diagnostics, there is a conditional recommendation to use vascular imaging to identify large-vessel involvement in newly diagnosed GCA.

“We also recommend appropriate use of lab testing for patients,” Chung said. “We want to emphasize that the whole patient should be examined.”

Chung said the panel is not strictly opposed to laboratory analysis, but clinicians are also encouraged to assess the symptoms, comorbidities and disease activity in each individual patient to inform decision making.

Looking beyond the clinic, the recommendations call for additional research and additional training in the vasculitides. “Everyone wants to know: “How long should my patient be treated with a particular medication,” Chung said. “Often, the answer is, ‘I don’t know,’ because those studies have not been done.”

An important point of consideration is that the ACR/Vasculitis Foundation guidelines contradict recommendations from other societies in certain areas. For example, the ACR/Vasculitis Foundation document recommends biopsy over ultrasound. “This is not because ultrasound is a bad test, but because most people are not trained in using this test,” Chung said. “We should train people in this test so they can use them appropriately.”

The documents are still undergoing review processes. Publication is expected by the spring of 2020. – by Rob Volansky

Chung S. ANCA-associated vasculitis: How to apply the new ACR guideline. Presented at: American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Professionals Annual Meeting; Nov. 9-13, 2019; Atlanta.

Disclosure: Chung reports no relevant financial disclosures.