Tofacitinib Approved for New Ankylosing Spondylitis Indication

Jeff Evans

December 16, 2021

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a supplemental new drug application for tofacitinib (Xeljanz, Xeljanz XR) that adds active ankylosing spondylitis in adults to its list of indications, according to a December 14 announcement from manufacturer Pfizer.

The approval makes the drug the first Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor to be approved for ankylosing spondylitis, joining tofacitinib's other indications of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and polyarticular-course juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Like other JAK inhibitors that are indicated for immune-mediate inflammatory diseases, tofacitinib's use for all indications is limited to patients who have had an inadequate response or intolerance to one or more tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers.

The agency based its decision on the results of a phase 3, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 269 adults with active ankylosing spondylitis that tested tofacitinib 5 mg twice daily.

The study met its primary endpoint showing that at week 16, the percentage of tofacitinib-treated patients who achieved 20% improvement in Assessment in SpondyloArthritis International Society response criteria (ASAS20) was significantly greater than with placebo (56.4% vs 29.4%; P < .0001). The percentage of responders for ASAS40 criteria was likewise significantly greater with tofacitinib vs placebo (40.6% vs 12.5%; P < .0001). Pfizer said that the safety profile of tofacitinib observed in patients with ankylosing spondylitis was consistent with the safety profile observed in patients with either rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.

Pfizer noted in its announcement that the FDA updated the prescribing information this month for tofacitinib (and other JAK inhibitors approved for immune-mediated inflammatory conditions, upadacitinib [Rinvoq] and baricitinib [Olumiant]). This update included a new boxed warning for major adverse cardiovascular events and updated boxed warnings regarding mortality, malignancies, and thrombosis. These changes were made in light of results from the ORAL Surveillance postmarketing study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis aged 50 years and older with at least one cardiovascular risk factor. That study found an association between tofacitinib and increased risk of heart attack or stroke, cancer, blood clots, and death in comparison with patients who took the TNF blockers adalimumab or etanercept.

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