News from the FDA/CDC

FDA finds increased blood clot, death risk associated with Xeljanz


The Food and Drug Administration has issued a safety alert approving new boxed warnings about increased blood clot and mortality risk associated with the 10-mg, twice-daily dose of tofacitinib (Xeljanz), as well as a new limitation for patients with ulcerative colitis receiving the medication.

FDA icon

Tofacitinib, a Janus kinase inhibitor, was first approved by the FDA in 2012 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). An indication for psoriatic arthritis was added in 2017, and one for ulcerative colitis was added in 2018.

After the 2012 approval, the FDA commissioned a postmarketing trial in patients with RA on background methotrexate to evaluate safety and the risk of cancer, heart-related events, and infection. The 5- and 10-mg tofacitinib twice daily doses are being analyzed in an ongoing study in comparison with a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor.

An interim analysis of the trial’s data, as of January 2019, found an increased risk of blood clots and death in patients receiving 10-mg tofacitinib twice daily, compared with the TNF inhibitor and the twice-daily, 5-mg dose. Overall, there were 19 cases of blood clots in the lung out of 3,884 patient-years of follow-up in patients who received tofacitinib 10 mg twice daily, compared with 3 cases out of 3,982 patient-years in patients who received TNF inhibitors. There were also 45 cases of death from all causes during follow-up for tofacitinib 10 mg twice daily, compared with 25 cases in patients who received TNF inhibitors.

Patients with symptoms of thrombosis also receiving tofacitinib should immediately discontinue the medication. Tofacitinib should not be given to patients with ulcerative colitis unless they are not treated effectively with a TNF inhibitor or do not tolerate TNF inhibitors; ulcerative colitis patients should receive the lowest effective dosage, and if the higher dosage is necessary, it should be limited to the shortest amount of time possible, the FDA noted.

Next Article: