Readjudication of mortality data from the FOURIER trial suggests a higher risk for cardiovascular death with evolocumab (Repatha) among patients with established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease than originally reported for the first-in-class PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) inhibitor.
The Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials (RIAT) investigators launched this review in 2018, citing “significant inconsistencies and misreporting” between information in death narratives in the trial’s clinical study report (CSR) and the 2017 New England Journal of Medicine publication of the primary trial results.
“After readjudication, deaths of cardiac origin were numerically higher in the evolocumab group than in the placebo group in the FOURIER trial, suggesting possible cardiac harm,” the researchers conclude in the new report published online in BMJ Open. “At the time the trial was terminated early, a non-significantly higher risk of cardiovascular mortality was observed with evolocumab, which was numerically greater in our adjudication.
“Our findings indicate that complete restoration of all clinical outcomes from the FOURIER trial is required,” they wrote. “Meanwhile, clinicians should be skeptical about benefits vs harms of prescribing evolocumab for patients with established atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”
Asked to comment on the reanalysis, FOURIER lead investigator Marc Sabatine, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Lewis Dexter distinguished chair in cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, both in Boston, said: “It’s hard to call this science. I think it lacks all scientific rigor and is fundamentally flawed and, because their process was flawed, it has led them to erroneous conclusions.”
Reached for comment, Sanjay Kaul, MD, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who was not involved with either study, said: “If I were to describe this in one sentence, I would say much ado about nothing. A tempest in a teapot.”
Evaluating hard outcomes
The Food and Drug Administration approved evolocumab in 2015 for lowering LDL cholesterol levels, but without results from any trial evaluating hard outcomes.
As previously reported in 2017, FOURIER showed that adding evolocumab to high-intensity statins slashed LDL cholesterol by 59% and was associated with a 15% reduction in the primary composite cardiovascular events endpoint, compared with placebo, but numerically more all-cause and CV mortality.
The NEJM data analysis reported the risk for cardiovascular mortality was 5% (hazard ratio, 1.05; 95% confidence interval, 0.88-1.25), whereas the new review found a still nonsignificant 20% relative risk (R95% CI, 0.95-1.51).
Cardiac deaths were also numerically higher in the evolocumab group (113 vs. 88), corresponding to a 28% higher relative risk (95% CI, 0.97-1.69). Vascular deaths were similar at 37 in both groups (RR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.63-1.58).
For 360 of the 870 deaths, the cause of death adjudicated by the FOURIER clinical events committee differs from that identified by the local clinical investigators in the CSR death narrative, the authors said.
The RIAT investigators found 11 more deaths from myocardial infarction in the evolocumab group (36 vs. 25 in NEJM) and 3 fewer deaths in the placebo group (27 vs. 30). In addition, their review indicated that deaths as a result of cardiac failure in the evolocumab group were almost double those in the placebo group, at 31 versus 16, respectively.