FDA Approves Topical Ruxolitinib for Atopic Dermatitis, First JAK Inhibitor for This Indication in the US

Doug Brunk


September 22, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration today gave the nod to topical ruxolitinib cream for the treatment of non-immunocompromised patients with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis ages 12 years and older, making it the first topical JAK inhibitor approved for AD – and the first JAK inhibitor approved for this indication – in the United States.

The approval is limited to patients whose AD is not adequately controlled with topical prescription therapies, or when those therapies are not advisable.

"Approval of topical ruxolitinib fills a major gap in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: a safe, effective, and tolerable non-steroidal topical therapy," Eric L. Simpson, MD, professor of dermatology and director of the Oregon Health & Science University Dermatology Clinical Research Center, Portland, told this news organization. "This approval will allow for long-term treatment without the concern of steroid side effects. From earlier studies, ruxolitinib cream appears to be as effective as a medium-potency topical steroid. These efficacy levels and low incidence of burning will be a welcome addition to our current nonsteroidal therapies."

The drug's approval was based on results from two phase 3, randomized studies of identical design involving 1,249 patients aged 12 years and older with AD: TRuE-AD1 and TRuE-AD2. In these studies, ruxolitinib cream demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity, with rapid and sustained antipruritic action, compared with vehicle. In the trials, patients with an Investigator's Global Assessment (IGA) score of 2 or 3 and 3%-20% of affected body surface area (BSA) were randomized (2:2:1) to twice-daily 0.75% ruxolitinib cream, 1.5% ruxolitinib cream, or vehicle cream for 8 continuous weeks. The 1.5% concentration was approved by the FDA.

A study first published in May of 2021 found that significantly more patients in TRuE-AD1 and TRuE-AD2 achieved IGA treatment success with 0.75% (50% vs. 39%, respectively) and 1.5% ruxolitinib cream (53.8% vs. 51.3%), compared with vehicle (15.1% vs. 7.6%; P < .0001) at week 8. In addition, significant reductions in itch, compared with vehicle, were reported within 12 hours of first applying 1.5% ruxolitinib cream (P < .05).

More key findings from TRuE-AD1 and TRuE-AD2 are scheduled to be presented during the upcoming European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology meeting Sept. 29-Oct. 2, but during the Revolutionizing Atopic Dermatitis Symposium on June 13, Kim Papp, MD, PhD, presented long-term safety data of ruxolitinib cream in patients who were followed for an additional 44 weeks. Papp, a dermatologist and founder of Probity Medical Research, Waterloo, Ont., reported that 543 patients from TRuE-AD1 and 530 from TRuE-AD2 entered the long-term analysis and that about 78% of these patients completed the study. From weeks 12 to 52, the proportion of patients with an IGA score of 0 or 1 with 0.75% and 1.5% ruxolitinib cream ranged from 62%-77% and 67%-77%, respectively, in TRuE-AD1, to 60%-77% and 72%-80% in TRuE-AD2.

The measured mean total affected BSA was less than 3% throughout the follow-up period in the 1.5% ruxolitinib cream arm in TRuE-AD1 and TRuE-AD2 and was less than 3% in the 0.75% ruxolitinib cream arm during most of the study period.

In a pooled safety analysis, treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) were reported in 60% and 54% of patients who applied 0.75% and 1.5% ruxolitinib cream, respectively, over 44 weeks. The frequency of application-site reactions remained low. Specifically, treatment-related adverse events were reported in 5% of patients who applied 0.75% ruxolitinib cream and in 3% of patients who applied 1.5% ruxolitinib cream; none were serious. TEAEs led to discontinuation in 2% of patients in the 0.75% ruxolitinib cream group, and no patients in the 1.5% ruxolitinib cream group.

Papp and his colleagues observed that the most common treatment adverse events were upper respiratory tract infections and nasopharyngitis. According to Incyte's press release, the most common treatment-emergent adverse reactions in patients treated with ruxolitinib during clinical trials were nasopharyngitis, diarrhea, bronchitis, ear infection, eosinophil count increases, urticaria, folliculitis, tonsillitis, and rhinorrhea. The labeling includes boxed warnings for serious infections, mortality, malignancy, major adverse cardiovascular events, and thrombosis, seen with oral JAK inhibitors for inflammatory conditions.

Incyte will market ruxolitinib under the trade name Opzelura.

Simpson disclosed that he is a consultant to and/or an investigator for several pharmaceutical companies, including Incyte, Regeneron/Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Company, AbbVie, and Pfizer.

Papp disclosed that he has received honoraria or clinical research grants as a consultant, speaker, scientific officer, advisory board member, and/or steering committee member for several pharmaceutical companies, including Incyte.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.