European Marketing of Picato Suspended While Skin Cancer Risk Reviewed

Jake Remaly

January 17, 2020

As a precaution, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended that patients stop using ingenol mebutate (Picato) while the agency continues to review the safety of the topical treatment, which is indicated for the treatment of actinic keratosis in Europe and the United States.

No such action has been taken in the United States.

The EMA's Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) is reviewing data on skin cancer in patients treated with ingenol mebutate. In a trial comparing Picato and imiquimod, skin cancer was more common in the areas treated with Picato than in areas treated with imiquimod, the statement said.

"While uncertainties remain, there is concern about a possible link between the use of Picato and the development of skin cancer," the EMA said in a Jan. 17 news release. "The PRAC has therefore recommended suspending the medicine's marketing authorization as a precaution and noted that alternative treatments are available."

FDA is looking at the situation

LEO Pharma, the company that markets Picato, announced on Jan. 9 that it was initiating voluntary withdrawal of marketing authorization and possible voluntary withdrawal of Picato in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA). The statement says, however, that "LEO Pharma has carefully reviewed the information received from PRAC, and the company disagrees with the ongoing assessment of PRAC." There are "no additional safety data and it is LEO Pharma's position that there is no evidence of a causal relationship or plausible mechanism hypothesis between the use of Picato and the development of skin malignancies." An update added to the press release on Jan. 17 restates that the company disagrees with the assessment of PRAC.

"This matter does not affect Picato in the U.S., and there are no new developments in the [United States]. Picato continues to be available to patients in the U.S. We remain in dialogue with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about Picato in the EU/EEA," Rhonda Sciarra, associate director of global external communications for LEO Pharma, said in an email. "We remain committed to ensuring patient safety, rigorous pharmacovigilance monitoring, and transparency," she added.

The FDA "is gathering data and information to investigate the safety concern related to Picato," a spokesperson for the FDA told Dermatology News. "We are committed to sharing relevant findings when we have sufficient understanding of the situation and of what actions should be taken," he added.

Examining the data

The EMA announcement described data about the risk of skin cancer in studies of Picato. A 3-year study in 484 patients found a higher incidence of skin malignancy with ingenol mebutate than with the comparator, imiquimod. In all, 3.3% of patients developed cancer in the ingenol mebutate group, compared with 0.4% in the comparator group.

In an 8-week vehicle-controlled trial in 1,262 patients, there were more skin tumors in patients who received ingenol mebutate than in those in the vehicle arm (1.0% vs. 0.1%).

In addition, according to the EMA statement, in four trials of a related ester that included 1,234 patients, a higher incidence of skin tumors occurred with the related drug, ingenol disoxate, than with a vehicle control (7.7% vs. 2.9%). PRAC considered these data because ingenol disoxate and ingenol mebutate are closely related, the EMA said.

"Health care professionals should stop prescribing Picato and consider different treatment options while authorities review the data," according to the European agency. "Health care professionals should advise patients to be vigilant for any skin lesions developing and to seek medical advice promptly should any occur," the statement adds.

Picato has been authorized in the EU since 2012, and the FDA approved Picato the same year. Patients have received about 2.8 million treatment courses in that time, according to the LEO Pharma press release.

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