To the Editor:
Brodalumab, a monoclonal antibody targeting IL-17RA, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for the treatment of moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis. The drug is the only biologic agent available for the treatment of psoriasis for which a psoriasis area severity index score of 100 is a primary end point.1,2 Brodalumab is associated with an FDA boxed warning due to an increased risk for suicidal ideation and behavior (SIB), including completed suicides, during clinical trials.
We sought to characterize national utilization of this effective yet underutilized drug among Medicare beneficiaries by surveying the Medicare Part D Prescriber dataset.3 We tabulated brodalumab utilization statistics and characteristics of high-volume prescribers who had 11 or more annual claims for brodalumab.
Despite its associated boxed warning, the number of Medicare D claims for brodalumab increased by 1756 from 2017 to 2019, surpassing $7 million in costs by 2019. The number of beneficiaries also increased from 11 to 292—a 415.2% annual increase in beneficiaries for whom brodalumab was prescribed (Table 1).
In addition, states in the West and South had the highest utilization rates of brodalumab in 2019. There also was an increasing trend toward high-volume prescribers of brodalumab, with private practice clinicians constituting the majority (Table 2).
There was a substantial increase in advanced practice providers including nurse practitioners and physician assistants who were brodalumab prescribers. Although this trend might promote greater access to brodalumab, it is vital to ensure that advanced practice providers receive targeted training to properly understand the complexities of treatment with brodalumab.
Although the utilization of brodalumab has increased since 2017 (P<.001), it is still underutilized compared to the other IL-17 inhibitors secukinumab and ixekizumab. Secukinumab was FDA approved for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in 2015, followed by ixekizumab in 2016.4
According to the Medicare Part D database, both secukinumab and ixekizumab had a higher number of total claims and prescribers compared to brodalumab in the years of their debut.3 In 2015, there were 3593 claims for and 862 prescribers of secukinumab; in 2016, there were 1731 claims for and 681 prescribers of ixekizumab. In contrast, there were only 29 claims for and 11 prescribers of brodalumab in 2017, the year that the drug was approved by the FDA. During the same 3-year period, secukinumab and ixekizumab had a substantially greater number of claims—totals of 176,823 and 55,289, respectively—than brodalumab. The higher number of claims for secukinumab and ixekizumab compared to brodalumab may reflect clinicians’ increasing confidence in prescribing those drugs, given their long-term safety and efficacy. In addition, secukinumab and ixekizumab do not require completion of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program, which makes them more readily prescribable.3