The live varicella-zoster vaccine can effectively prevent shingles in rheumatoid arthritis patients starting treatment with the drug tofacitinib, according to results of 2 recently-published studies in Arthritis & Rheumatology.
Patients who received the shingles vaccine several weeks prior to the start of treatment for arthritis with tofacitinib demonstrated robust immune responses that were sustained even after the start of treatment.
The researchers conducted 2 studies to evaluate the effects of the shingles vaccine in patients with arthritis. In one study, 112 patients with active rheumatoid arthritis were vaccinated and then randomly assigned to receive either tofacitinib or a placebo, initiated 2-3 weeks after the vaccination.1 The researchers noted that patients treated with tofacitinib had similar or even higher immune responses to the vaccine compared with patients treated with placebo.
However, the only patient who did not have varicella in the past experienced disseminated varicella infection after starting tofacitinib. The researchers noted the importance of using the vaccine for patients who have have previously had varicella.