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AHFS Drug Information/Essentials Update – January 2017

The January update to the AHFS Drug Information/Essentials database has been published. Highlights from this month’s update include:

New AHFS/Essentials Monographs

  • New Full-Length Monographs
    • Netupitant And Palonosetron (Akynzeo®)
      • Netupitant and palonosetron hydrochloride are used orally in fixed combination for the prevention of acute and delayed nausea and vomiting associated with initial and repeat courses of cancer chemotherapy, including, but not limited to, highly emetogenic chemotherapy.
    • Sugammadex (Bridion®)
      • Sugammadex is used for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade induced by rocuronium bromide or vecuronium bromide in patients undergoing surgery.
  • New First-Release Monographs
    • Rucaparib (Rubraca®)
      • Rucaparib camsylate is a PARP inhibitor indicated as monotherapy for the treatment of patients with deleterious BRCA mutation (germline and/or somatic) associated advanced ovarian cancer who have been treated with two or more chemotherapies.
    • Nusinersen (Spinraza®)
      • Nusinersen sodium is indicated for the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in pediatric and adult patients.

FDA MedWatch Alerts

  • FDA is warning that repeated or lengthy use of general anesthetic and sedation drugs during surgeries or procedures in children younger than 3 years or in pregnant women during their third trimester may affect the development of children’s brains.
    • Affected Monographs:
      • Propofol
      • Etomidate
      • Lorazepam
      • Pentobarbital
      • Midazolam
      • Methohexital
  • As a result of an updated review, the FDA has concluded that use of the type 2 diabetes medicine pioglitazone may be linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
    • Affected Monographs:
      • Pioglitazone
  • FDA determined the risk of serious side effects on mood, behavior, or thinking with the stop-smoking medicines varenicline (Chantix®) and bupropion (Zyban®) is lower than previously suspected.
    • Affected Monographs:
      • Varenicline
      • Bupropion

Spinraza (nusinersen) Approved

FDA approves first drug for spinal muscular atrophy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Spinraza (nusinersen), the first drug approved to treat children and adults with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a rare and often fatal genetic disease affecting muscle strength and movement. Spinraza is an injection administered into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord.

“There has been a long-standing need for a treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, the most common genetic cause of death in infants, and a disease that can affect people at any stage of life,” said Billy Dunn, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “As shown by our suggestion to the sponsor to analyze the results of the study earlier than planned, the FDA is committed to assisting with the development and approval of safe and effective drugs for rare diseases and we worked hard to review this application quickly; we could not be more pleased to have the first approved treatment for this debilitating disease.”

SMA is a hereditary disease that causes weakness and muscle wasting because of the loss of lower motor neurons controlling movement. There is wide variability in age of onset, symptoms and rate of progression. Spinraza is approved for use across the range of spinal muscular atrophy patients.

The FDA worked closely with the sponsor during development to help design and implement the analysis upon which this approval was based. The efficacy of Spinraza was demonstrated in a clinical trial in 121 patients with infantile-onset SMA who were diagnosed before 6 months of age and who were less than 7 months old at the time of their first dose. Patients were randomized to receive an injection of Spinraza, into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord, or undergo a mock procedure without drug injection (a skin prick). Twice the number of patients received Spinraza compared to those who underwent the mock procedure. The trial assessed the percentage of patients with improvement in motor milestones, such as head control, sitting, ability to kick in supine position, rolling, crawling, standing and walking.

The FDA asked the sponsor to conduct an interim analysis as a way to evaluate the study results as early as possible; 82 of 121 patients were eligible for this analysis. Forty percent of patients treated with Spinraza achieved improvement in motor milestones as defined in the study, whereas none of the control patients did.

Additional open-label uncontrolled clinical studies were conducted in symptomatic patients who ranged in age from 30 days to 15 years at the time of the first dose, and in presymptomatic patients who ranged in age from 8 days to 42 days at the time of first dose. These studies lacked control groups and therefore were more difficult to interpret than the controlled study, but the findings appeared generally supportive of the clinical efficacy demonstrated in the controlled clinical trial in infantile-onset patients.

The most common side effects found in participants in the clinical trials on Spinraza were upper respiratory infection, lower respiratory infection and constipation. Warnings and precautions include low blood platelet count and toxicity to the kidneys (renal toxicity). Toxicity in the nervous system (neurotoxicity) was observed in animal studies.

The FDA granted this application fast track designation and priority review. The drug also received orphan drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.

The sponsor is receiving a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher under a program intended to encourage development of new drugs and biologics for the prevention and treatment of rare pediatric diseases. A voucher can be redeemed by a sponsor at a later date to receive priority review of a subsequent marketing application for a different product. This is the eighth rare pediatric disease priority review voucher issued by the FDA since the program began.

Spinraza is marketed by Biogen of Cambridge, Massachusetts and was developed by Ionis Pharmaceuticals of Carlsbad, California.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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Rubraca (rucaparib) Approved

FDA grants accelerated approval to new treatment for advanced ovarian cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today granted accelerated approval to Rubraca (rucaparib) to treat women with a certain type of ovarian cancer. Rubraca is approved for women with advanced ovarian cancer who have been treated with two or more chemotherapies and whose tumors have a specific gene mutation (deleterious BRCA) as identified by an FDA-approved companion diagnostic test.

“Today’s approval is another example of the trend we are seeing in developing targeted agents to treat cancers caused by specific mutations in a patient’s genes,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and acting director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence. “Women with these gene abnormalities who have tried at least two chemotherapy treatments for their ovarian cancer now have an additional treatment option.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 22,280 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016 and an estimated 14,240 will die of this disease. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of patients with ovarian cancer have a BRCA gene mutation.

BRCA genes are involved with repairing damaged DNA and normally work to prevent tumor development. However, mutations of these genes may lead to certain cancers, including ovarian cancers. Rubraca is a poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that blocks an enzyme involved in repairing damaged DNA. By blocking this enzyme, DNA inside the cancerous cells with damaged BRCA genes may be less likely to be repaired, leading to cell death and possibly a slow-down or stoppage of tumor growth.

Today, the FDA also approved the FoundationFocus CDxBRCA companion diagnostic for use with Rubraca, which is the first next-generation-sequencing (NGS)-based companion diagnostic approved by the agency. The NGS test detects the presence of deleterious BRCA gene mutations in the tumor tissue of ovarian cancer patients. If one or more of the mutations are detected, the patient may be eligible for treatment with Rubraca.

The safety and efficacy of Rubraca were studied in two, single-arm clinical trials involving 106 participants with BRCA-mutated advanced ovarian cancer who had been treated with two or more chemotherapy regimens. BRCA gene mutations were confirmed in 96 percent of tested trial participants with available tumor tissue using the FoundationFocus CDxBRCA companion diagnostic. The trials measured the percentage of participants who experienced complete or partial shrinkage of their tumors (overall response rate). Fifty-four percent of the participants who received Rubraca in the trials experienced complete or partial shrinkage of their tumors lasting a median of 9.2 months.

Common side effects of Rubraca include nausea, fatigue, vomiting, low levels of red blood cells (anemia), abdominal pain, unusual taste sensation (dysgeusia), constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea, low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) and trouble breathing (dyspnea).  Rubraca is associated with serious risks, such as bone marrow problems (myelodysplastic syndrome), a type of cancer of the blood called acute myeloid leukemia and fetal harm.

The agency approved Rubraca under its accelerated approval program, which allows approval of a drug to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition based on clinical data showing the drug has an effect on a surrogate (substitute) endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit. The sponsor is continuing to study this drug in patients with advanced ovarian cancer who have BRCA gene mutations and in patients with other types of ovarian cancer. The FDA also granted the Rubraca application breakthrough therapy designation and priority review status. Rubraca also received orphan drug designation, which provides incentives such as tax credits, user fee waivers and eligibility for exclusivity to assist and encourage the development of drugs intended to treat rare diseases.

Rubraca is marketed by Clovis Oncology, Inc. based in Boulder, Colorado. The FoundationFocus CDxBRCA companion diagnostic is marketed by Foundation Medicine, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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