Upadacitinib Earns FDA Approval for Ankylosing Spondylitis 

Heidi Splete

May 02, 2022

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved upadacitinib (Rinvoq) as an oral treatment for active ankylosing spondylitis in adults, its manufacturer AbbVie announced April 29.

Upadacitinib, a selective and reversible Janus kinase inhibitor, is the second drug in its class to be FDA-approved for ankylosing spondylitis, after tofacitinib (Xeljanz) in December.

Upadacitinib is now indicated for patients with active ankylosing spondylitis (AS) who have had an insufficient response or intolerance with one or more tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers. Upadacitinib is already approved by the FDA for adults with active psoriatic arthritis, moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis, and moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis who have had an insufficient response or intolerance with one or more TNF inhibitors. It also has been approved for adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older with refractory, moderate to severe atopic dermatitis.

The European Medicines Agency gave marketing approval for upadacitinib in adults with active AS in January 2021.

Two main clinical studies form the basis for the FDA's approval decision. The phase 3 SELECT-AXIS 2 clinical trial involved patients with an inadequate response or intolerance to one or two biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (bDMARDs). A total of 44.5% patients with AS who were randomly assigned to upadacitinib 15 mg once daily met the primary endpoint of at least 40% improvement in Assessment in Spondyloarthritis International Society response criteria (ASAS 40) at 14 weeks, compared against 18.2% with placebo.

The second study, the phase 2/3 SELECT-AXIS 1 clinical trial, tested upadacitinib in patients who had never taken bDMARDs and had an inadequate response or intolerance to at least two NSAIDs. In this study, significantly more patients randomly assigned to 15 mg upadacitinib achieved ASAS 40 at 14 weeks, compared with placebo (51% vs. 26%).

Patients randomly assigned to upadacitinib also showed significant improvements in signs and symptoms of AS, as well as improvements in physical function and disease activity, compared with placebo, after 14 weeks. The safety profile for patients with AS treated with upadacitinib was similar to that seen in studies of patients with rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Potential severe side effects include increased risk for death in patients aged 50 years and older with at least one cardiovascular risk factor; increased risk of serious infections, such as tuberculosis; and increased risk of certain cancers, according to the company statement.

Read the complete prescribing information here.

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