Berdazimer Gel Beats Vehicle for Molluscum Contagiosum in Phase 3 Study

Heidi Splete

July 15, 2022

Treatment with a berdazimer gel, a novel, topical nitric oxide–releasing agent, significantly improved clearance of molluscum contagiosum lesions, compared with placebo, in a study of 891 individuals at 55 clinics.

Molluscum contagiosum (MC) remains a common infection that, despite being self-limiting, may persist for months or years, and is associated with quality of life concerns and the need for ongoing therapy, wrote John C. Browning, MD, of Texas Dermatology and Laser Specialists, San Antonio, and colleagues, who conducted the phase 3 randomized study.

The infection is most common in children aged 1-14 years, and treatment may be needed in part to avoid infecting peers and family members, they said. No treatments for molluscum are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In the study, which was published in JAMA Dermatology, the researchers randomized 444 patients to berdazimer gel 10.3% and 447 to a placebo gel, applied once daily in a thin layer on all MC lesions for 12 weeks. The study was conducted at 55 clinics across the United States between Sept. 1, 2020, and July 21, 2021. The mean age of the patients was about 6.5 years (range was 0.9-49 years), and about 85% were White. Participants had 3-70 raised MC lesions; those with sexually transmitted MC or MC in the periocular area were excluded. The primary endpoint was complete clearance of MC lesions after 12 weeks of treatment. At 12 weeks, significantly more patients treated with berdazimer gel achieved complete clearance than those on vehicle (32.4% vs. 19.7%; P < .001). A total of 64 (14.4%) patients in the berdazimer group discontinued treatment because of MC clearance, compared with 40 patients (8.9%) in the vehicle group.

Most adverse events were mild or moderate, and rates of adverse events resulting in treatment discontinuation were low overall for both groups; the most common adverse events were application-site pain and erythema, which were mostly mild. Overall, 4.1% of berdazimer-treated patients and 0.7% of placebo patients discontinued the study because of adverse events.

The study findings were limited by several factors, including the small number of patients in subgroups for race, ethnicity, and age; and the lack of data on patients with sexually transmitted MC and on concomitant use with other topical MC therapies, the researchers noted.

However, the results represent the largest randomized clinical trial of berdazimer 10.3% to date, and support its potential as a first-line therapy for MC patients aged 6 months and older, according to the authors. "Berdazimer is under consideration as a first in-class therapeutic agent for MC and may provide a topical prescription alternative to other therapies used for this highly contagious and psychosocially challenging skin condition," they said.

Having a reliable, steroid-free, safe, and efficacious medication to treat molluscum in the pediatric population, as early as age 6 months, that can be used at home would "change the whole therapeutic paradigm," one of the study authors, Adelaide Hebert, MD, said in an interview at the Society for Pediatric Dermatology annual meeting in July, where she presented phase 2 data on berdazimer gel. "This is a common problem and the rate of infections among siblings if it goes untreated is 41%. Affected kids have a sense of isolation; they don't get invited to swimming parties."

The lack of a safe and effective topical therapy "has been challenging," added Hebert, professor of dermatology and pediatrics, and chief of pediatric dermatology at the University of Texas, Houston. She noted that treatments that have been used but have not been successful include imiquimod. "I'm not impressed with tretinoin," although it is prescribed for MC, and the most common treatment prescribed by pediatricians for molluscum — mupirocin — is "usually not effective," she said.

Another MC Treatment in Trials

Another investigative treatment for molluscum contagiosum, VP-102, a drug-device combination of cantharidin 0.7% administered through a single-use precision applicator, has been evaluated in phase 3 studies of patients with MC aged 2 years and older. The results of two phase 3 studies were published in 2020.

In May 2022, Verrica Pharmaceuticals, which is developing VP-102, announced that Food and Drug Administration approval had been delayed because of deficiencies identified at a contract manufacturing organization, and that the company was working with the agency to bring VP-102 to the market as soon as possible.

A Step in the Right Direction

Although MC is self-resolving, cases last an average of 12.5 months, and "many families look to fast-forward their child's experience with the infection," Vikash S. Oza, MD, a pediatric dermatologist at New York University, New York, wrote in an editorial that accompanied the berdazimer study.

"To truly create a paradigm shift in the decision to treat MC, a therapeutic treatment would need to be developed that would lead to resolution of the infection over a short time frame (ideally, weeks) with minimal discomfort," Oza noted. "Both VP-102 and berdazimer gel, 10.3%, have the potential to be the first-ever MC therapies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," and families seeking to reduce MC in visible areas would welcome this option for a home therapy, he said.

However, Oza emphasized that potential barriers to widespread use of these therapies include whether the efficacy can be maintained in patients who fail to comply with daily application, and the ongoing need for office-based therapy to manage sexually transmitted MC in adults and periocular and perianal MC in children.

The study was funded by Novan. Lead author Browning disclosed grants from Novan during the conduct of the study; Hebert reported grants from the University of Texas Health Science Center McGovern Medical School-Houston during the conduct of the study. Disclosures of other authors included having reported equity in Novan during the conduct of the study and receiving a grant from Novan. Oza had no financial conflicts to disclose.

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