Risankizumab Shows Efficacy, Tolerability in Patients With PsA

Tara Haelle

June 10, 2021

Risankizumab (Skyrizi) was effective for treating psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in patients who did not respond to or who could not tolerate other biologics or standard disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), according to a study presented at the annual congress of the European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR). It was also well tolerated.

"Treatment with risankizumab resulted in significantly greater improvements in signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, including assessments of disease activity in joints and skin and patient-reported outcomes, compared with placebo in patients who did not respond to or were intolerant to biologics or DMARDs," reported Andrew Ostor, MD, of Monash University and Cabrini Hospital, in Melbourne, Australia. The safety profile was "consistent with that established for risankizumab in the treatment moderate to severe psoriasis," he told attendees.

Risankizumab is approved in the United States for the treatment of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis in adults who are candidates for systemic therapy or phototherapy. It is a humanized immunoglobulin G1 monoclonal antibody that selectively inhibits cytokine interleukin–23 (IL-23) by binding to its p19 subunit. IL-23 has been implicated in the development of PsA.

This was a phase 3 trial with "promising results in line with the ACR 20 response [at least 20% improvement in American College of Rheumatology response criteria] of other biologics in psoriatic arthritis," according to Gaëlle Varkas, MD, PhD, of the Ghent University VIB Center for Inflammation Research and the Department of Rheumatology, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium. "Especially in patients with severe and/or refractory skin disease or inadequate response at the level of the joint to other DMARDs or biologics, risankizumab is filling a void," Varkas, who was not involved in the research, told Medscape Medical News.

There were no major safety problems, although long-term data, especially in regard to cancer and cardiovascular effects, "are always of interest, as they can be missed in randomized, controlled trials," she said. In addition, "efficacy in concomitant axial disease, uveitis, and inflammatory bowel disease might favor one treatment over the other." Another clinically significant takeaway was risankizumab’s "better effect on skin psoriasis while maintaining the effect on joint manifestations."

Details of 24-Week Trial Results

The phase 3 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind KEEPSAKE 2 trial involved 444 patients who had active PsA, defined as at least five swollen joints and at least five tender joints. All the patients either had an inadequate response to or were intolerant of one or two biologics or at least one conventional synthetic DMARD.

A total of 224 patients were randomly assigned to receive 150 mg of subcutaneous risankizumab at baseline and at 4 and 16 weeks after baseline; 220 participants received placebo injections. The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients who had at least 20% improvement in American College of Rheumatology response criteria (ACR 20) at week 24.

Demographic and clinical characteristics were similar in both groups at baseline. Among the participants, the total mean number of swollen joints was 13.3, and the total mean number of tender joints was 22.6. The participants had had PsA for an average of 8.2 years. The proportions of patients previously treated with biologics and DMARDs were similar in both groups, as were the proportions of patients currently taking glucocorticoids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or methotrexate or another DMARD. At week 24, there remained 199 patients in the placebo group and 215 in the risankizumab group.

Just over half (51.3%) of patients who took risankizumab achieved at least 20% improvement in their ACR 20 score, compared to just over a quarter (26.5%) of those who received placebo (P < .001). All secondary endpoints also showed statistically significant improvements (P < .001 for all except P < .009 for the Fatigue Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy–Fatigue [FACIT-Fatigue] secondary endpoint).

Scores on the Health Assessment Questionnaire–Disability Index were -0.22 in the risankizumab group and -0.05 in the placebo group (P < .001). In the risankizumab group, 55% of patients achieved at least a 90% reduction in scores on the Psoriasis Area Severity Index, compared to 10.2% of patients who received placebo. Similarly, 25.6% of patients who took risankizumab and 11.4% of patients who received placebo had minimal disease activity 24 weeks after baseline.

In the 36-item Short Form Health Survey Physical Component Summary, the score change among risankizumab patients was 5.9, compared to 2 among the patients who received placebo. The change in FACIT-Fatigue score was 4.9 for patients who took risankizumab and 2.6 for patients who received placebo.

The researchers also assessed how many patients achieved higher levels of response to treatment. At least a 50% improvement in ACR response criteria (ACR 50) occurred among 26.3% of patients taking risankizumab and 9.3% of patients taking placebo (P < .001). ACR 70 responses were seen in 12% of patients receiving risankizumab, compared to 5.9% of patients receiving placebo (P < .02). In the risankizumab group, 72.5% of patients had resolution of dactylitis and 42.9% had resolution of enthesitis, compared to 42.1% and 30.4%, respectively, in the placebo group.

Serious adverse events occurred in 4% of patients who received risankizumab and 5.5% of patients who received placebo. Serious infections occurred in 0.9% of those receiving risankizumab and 2.3% of those receiving placebo. Rates of treatment-emergent adverse events were also similar in the risankizumab (55.4%) and placebo (54.8%) groups.

In response to a question about whether it was possible to identify patients who might respond better to IL-23 inhibitors compared to IL-17 inhibitors, Ostor acknowledged that rheumatologic practice is not yet proficient at using biomarkers to direct therapy, so the benefit from these drugs lay elsewhere.

"What I think is great is the luxury of choice these days," Ostor told attendees. "We have these agents now, including risankizumab, that do work very effectively across the spectrum of the clinical features. It's just lovely to have these agents available that can truly make a difference to the clinical picture of the individual."

The trial was sponsored by AbbVie. Ostor has received research grants or speaking or consulting fees from AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, and UCB. Varkas has received research grants or speaker fees from AbbVie and Pfizer.

European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) 2021 Annual Meeting: Abstract OP0228.

Tara Haelle is an independent science journalist based in Texas who writes about medical research. Find her at @tarahaelle.

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