Novartis Drug Treats Cushing's Disease

Signifor will be first cushing disease treatment of its kind

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Natasha Levin

The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) adopted a positive opinion for Signifor (SOM230, pasireotide) for the treatment of Cushing's disease.

There are currently no approved medicines in the European Union (EU) targeting Cushing's disease, a debilitating endocrine disorder caused by excess cortisol in the body due to the presence of a non-cancerous pituitary tumor.

"We are pleased with the decision by the CHMP in support of pasireotide in the European Union," said Hervé Hoppenot, President, Novartis Oncology. "We are now one step closer to being able to offer patients in Europe the first approved medical treatment for Cushing's disease."

In the EU, the European Commission generally follows the recommendations of the CHMP and delivers its final decision within three months of the CHMP recommendation. The decision will be applicable to all 27 EU member states plus Iceland and Norway. Pasireotide has orphan drug designation for Cushing's disease, a condition which affects no more than five in 10,000 people in the EU, the threshold for orphan designation.

The CHMP positive opinion is based on data from the Phase III PASPORT-CUSHINGS (PASireotide clinical trial PORTfolio - CUSHING'S disease) trial, the largest randomized study to evaluate a medical therapy in patients with Cushing's disease.

In the study, patients were randomized to receive pasireotide subcutaneous (sc) injection in doses of 900µg and 600µg twice daily. For the 900µg group, the study met the primary endpoint of normalizing urinary-free cortisol (UFC) levels, the key measure of biochemical control of the disease.

Urinary-free cortisol levels were normalized in 26.3% and 14.6% of patients randomized to receive pasireotide 900µg and 600µg twice daily, respectively, at six months of treatment. After 12 months of treatment, results confirmed the durability of the effect. On average, as UFC levels were reduced, clinical manifestations of Cushing's disease improved including reduction of blood pressure, total cholesterol, weight and body mass index.

The most frequently reported adverse events (AE) (>10%) by investigators for pasireotide were diarrhea, nausea, hyperglycemia, cholelithiasis, abdominal pain, diabetes mellitus, injection site reactions, fatigue and increased glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), with most events being Grade 1-2. The tolerability profile of pasireotide was similar to that of other somatostatin analogs with the exception of the greater degree of hyperglycemia. 

About Cushing's disease

Cushing's syndrome is an endocrine disorder caused by excessive cortisol, a vital hormone that regulates metabolism, maintains cardiovascular function and helps the body respond to stress. Cushing's disease is a form of Cushing's syndrome, in which excess cortisol production is triggered by an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary adenoma. The first-line and most common treatment approach for Cushing's disease is surgical removal of the tumor.

Cushing's disease is a rare but serious disease that affects approximately one to two patients per million per year. It most commonly affects women from 20 to 50 years old. Cushing's disease may present with weight gain, central obesity, moon face, severe fatigue and weakness, striae (purple stretch marks), buffalo hump, depression and anxiety.

About pasireotide

Pasireotide, an investigational multireceptor targeting somatostatin analog (SSA), binds with high affinity to four of the five somatostatin receptor subtypes (sst 1, 2, 3 and 5). 

For the treatment of Cushing's disease, pasireotide has been studied as a twice-daily subcutaneous (sc) injection and is currently being evaluated as a long-acting release (LAR), once-monthly intramuscular (IM) injection as part of a global Phase III program. Pasireotide LAR is also being studied in three large-scale, global Phase III clinical trial programs: two in patients with acromegaly and one in patients with metastatic carcinoid tumors whose disease-related symptoms are inadequately controlled by somatostatin analogs.

Information about Novartis clinical trials for pasireotide can be obtained by healthcare professionals at www.pasporttrials.com.

Important Safety Information about pasireotide

Pasireotide is contraindicated in patients with hypersensitivity to pasireotide or to any of the excipients and in patients with severe liver impairment. Hyperglycemia is commonly reported as an adverse event and elevated glucose was the most frequently reported Grade 3 laboratory abnormality (23.2% of patients) in the Phase III study in Cushing's disease patients. Glycemic status should be assessed prior to starting treatment with pasireotide. Patients need to be monitored for hyperglycemia; if hyperglycemia develops, the initiation or adjustment of antidiabetic treatment is recommended.

Mild transient elevations in AST (aminotransferases) are commonly observed in patients treated with pasireotide. Rare cases of concurrent elevations in ALT (alanine aminotransferase) greater than 3 times the upper limit of normal (ULN) and bilirubin greater than 2 times ULN have also been observed. Patients need to be monitored closely for liver function for the first 3 months and thereafter as clinically indicated. Therapy should be discontinued if the patient develops jaundice, other clinical signs of significant liver dysfunctions, sustained AST or ALT increase 5 times ULN or greater, or if ALT or AST increase 3 times ULN with concurrent bilirubin elevation greater than 2 times ULN.

Patients with cardiac disease and/or risk factors for bradycardia need to be closely monitored. Caution is to be exercised in patients who have or may develop QT prolongation. Hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia must be corrected prior to initiating therapy and monitored thereafter.

Treatment with pasireotide leads to rapid suppression of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) secretion in Cushing's disease patients. Patients need to be monitored for signs and symptoms of hypocortisolism. Temporary exogenous steroid (glucocorticoid) replacement therapy and/or dose reduction or interruption of pasireotide therapy may be necessary.

Pasireotide should not be used during pregnancy unless clearly necessary. Breast feeding should be discontinued during treatment with pasireotide.

Pasireotide may affect the way other medicines work, and other medicines can affect how pasireotide works. Caution is to be exercised with the concomitant use of drugs with low therapeutic index mainly metabolized by CYP3A4, bromocriptine, cyclosporine, anti-arrhythmic medicines or drugs that may lead to QT prolongation.

The most frequently reported adverse events (AE) (>10%) by investigators for pasireotide were diarrhea, nausea, hyperglycemia, cholelithiasis, abdominal pain, diabetes mellitus, injection site reactions, fatigue and increased glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), with most events being Grade 1-2. The tolerability profile of pasireotide was similar to that of other somatostatin analogs with the exception of the greater degree of hyperglycemia.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 21, 2012