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Original Investigation
May 2015

Systemic Therapy for Psoriasis and the Risk of Herpes Zoster: A 500 000 Person-year Study

Author Affiliations
  • 1Soroka Medical Center, Beer-Sheva, Israel
  • 2Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
  • 3Department of Quality Measurements and Research, Chief Physician's Office, Clalit Health Services, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 4Carmel Medical Center, Haifa, Israel
  • 5Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion, Haifa, Israel
  • 6Clalit Health Services, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 7Department of Research and Information, Chief Physician’s Office, Clalit Health Services, Tel Aviv, Israel
  • 8Siaal Research Center for Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel
  • 9Hospital Division, Clalit Health Services, Tel Aviv, Israel
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(5):533-538. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.4956

Importance  The risk for herpes zoster (HZ) in patients with psoriasis treated with biologic medications or other systemic treatments has been given little attention to date.

Objective  To describe the risk for HZ in patients with psoriasis and its relation to treatment.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A cohort study was performed using the administrative database of Clalit Health Services, the largest public health care provider organization in Israel, in the setting of general community clinics, primary care and referral centers, and ambulatory and hospitalized care. We extracted information for all patients who received a psoriasis diagnosis from January 2002 to June 2013. Follow-up was conducted until the end of July 2013. The study included 95 941 patients with psoriasis in the analysis, with 522 616 person-years of follow-up. Incidence of HZ events was calculated for each systemic antipsoriatic medication provided, during a follow-up period of 11 years and 7 months. We used a generalized estimating equation Poisson regression model to examine the effect of each systemic treatment for psoriasis on HZ incidence, adjusting for age, sex, psoriasis severity, Charlson comorbidity index, steroid treatment, and socioeconomic status.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Incidence of HZ associated with systemic therapies.

Results  In a multivariate analysis, it was observed that treatment with phototherapy (rate ratio [RR], 1.09 [95% CI, 0.62-1.93]; P = .99), methotrexate (RR, 0.98 [95% CI, 0.78-1.23]; P = .83), cyclosporine (RR, 1.16 [95% CI, 0.48-2.80]; P = .49), and biologic medications as a single agent (RR, 2.67 [95% CI, 0.69-10.3]; P = .14) was not associated with HZ. The use of combination treatment with biologic medications and methotrexate was significantly associated with an increased incidence of HZ (RR, 1.66 [95% CI, 1.08-2.57]; P = .02). The use of acitritin was associated with decreased incidence of HZ (RR, 0.69 [95% CI, 0.49-0.97]; P = .004).

Conclusions and Relevance  Physicians may need to consider offering an HZ preventive vaccine to patients receiving combination treatment with biologic medications and methotrexate, particularly if they have additional risk factors for HZ.