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FDA approves first treatment for neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder


The Food and Drug Administration has approved Soliris (eculizumab) injection for intravenous use for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) in adult who have tested positive for anti–aquaporin-4 (AQP4) autoantibodies.

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Soliris, a complement inhibitor, is the first FDA-approved treatment for NMOSD, a rare autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that mainly affects the optic nerves and spinal cord, according to a news release.

About 73% of patients with NMOSD test positive for anti-AQP4 antibodies, and complement activation resulting from anti-AQP4 antibodies is an underlying cause of the disease, according to the news release from Alexion, the company that markets the drug. The average age of NMOSD onset is 39 years, and the disease can lead to permanent visual impairment and paralysis. The condition, previously known as Devic’s disease, may affect between 4,000 and 8,000 people in the United States. NMOSD may be confused with other neurologic conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Investigators studied the drug’s effectiveness in a placebo-controlled clinical trial of 143 patients with NMOSD who had anti-AQP4 antibodies. Compared with placebo, Soliris reduced the number of NMOSD relapses by 94% during the 48-week study. Nearly 98% of patients in the PREVENT trial who received Soliris were relapse-free after 48 weeks, compared with 63% of patients who received placebo.

Soliris also reduced hospitalizations and the need for corticosteroids and plasma exchange to treat acute attacks.

Soliris includes a boxed warning about life-threatening and fatal meningococcal infections that have occurred in patients treated with Soliris. Patients should be monitored and evaluated immediately if infection is suspected, according to the FDA announcement. In addition, health care professionals should use caution when administering Soliris to patients with any other infection. No cases of meningococcal infection were observed in the PREVENT trial.

Soliris is available through a restricted program under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS). Prescribers must counsel patients about the risk of meningococcal infection and ensure that patients have been vaccinated with meningococcal vaccines.

Adverse reactions in the NMOSD clinical trial included upper respiratory infection, nasopharyngitis, diarrhea, back pain, dizziness, influenza, joint pain, sore throat, and confusion.

The drug’s use for NMOSD received Orphan Drug designation, which provides incentives for the development of drugs for rare diseases.

Eculizumab first was approved by the FDA in 2007 and also may be used to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, and myasthenia gravis.

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