Consumer’s Guide to JAK Inhibitors for Ankylosing Spondylitis

U ntil recently, the treatments for ankylosing spondylitis — a chronic, inflammatory type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine — have lagged behind those of other forms of arthritis. Luckily, though, things may be starting to change.

In 2021 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new class of drugs for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis: Janus kinase, or JAK, inhibitors.

Today, JAK inhibitors are typically prescribed for use in people who have more moderate to severe ankylosing spondylitis and have tried other treatments but are still having trouble controlling the condition. Other treatment options you may need to try first include:

  • NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or COX-2 inhibitors, which are often used to treat symptoms in milder cases of ankylosing spondylitis
  • Biologics, such as TNF inhibitors or IL-17 inhibitors, which are typically prescribed first to manage moderate to severe ankylosing spondylitis and prevent disease progression

For now, JAK inhibitors are third in line for treating ankylosing spondylitis. That said, “Treatment guidelines were developed before any JAK inhibitors were approved,” explains Dubreuil. The guidelines, developed by the American College of Rheumatology with the Spondylitis Association of America and Spondyloarthritis Research and Treatment Network, were released in 2015.

“They haven’t yet incorporated the JAK inhibitor data,” says Dubreuil. “It may be that in the coming years, these drugs come a little earlier in that treatment algorithm, especially as we get more data in regards to adverse events or safety.”

You’ve learned a lot about JAK inhibitors for ankylosing spondylitis. So, what’s next?

Take some extra time to absorb all of this information and decide if JAK inhibitors are something you might want to consider.

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