FDA Approves First Biologic Treatment for Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Lucy Hicks

March 01, 2023

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved sarilumab (Kevzara) today for the treatment of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) in adults who have had an inadequate response to corticosteroids or could not tolerate a corticosteroid taper, joint developers Sanofi and Regeneron announced. The drug is the first and only FDA-approved biologic treatment for this inflammatory rheumatic disease. 

The FDA previously approved sarilumab, an interleukin-6 receptor antagonist, in May 2017 for the treatment of moderate-to-severe active rheumatoid arthritis in adults who do not respond well or have an intolerance to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), like methotrexate.

The FDA approval for this new indication was based on results from the multicenter, phase 3 SAPHYR trial in patients with corticosteroid-resistant, active PMR. In the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 59 participants received 200 mg of sarilumab plus a 14-week taper of corticosteroid treatment and 58 participants received placebo every 2 weeks along with a 52-week taper of corticosteroid treatment.

After 1 year, 28% of sarilumab patients achieved sustained remission, compared with 10% of the placebo group (P = .0193). Medscape Medical News previously reported these trial results in November when they were presented at the 2022 American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting.

The most common adverse events in the sarilumab group were neutropenia (15%), leukopenia (7%), constipation (7%), pruritic rash (5%), myalgia (7%), fatigue (5%), and injection site pruritus (5%). Two patients had serious adverse reactions of neutropenia, which resolved after discontinuing treatment.

"Polymyalgia rheumatica can be an incapacitating disease, causing painful disease flares in multiple parts of the bodies that leave people fatigued and unable to fully perform everyday activities. Corticosteroids have been the primary treatment to date, but many patients do not adequately respond to steroids or cannot be tapered off steroids, which puts such patients at risk of complications from long-term steroid therapy," George D. Yancopolous, MD, PHD, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron, said in the announcement. "With the approval of Kevzara for polymyalgia rheumatica, patients now have an FDA-approved treatment to help offer relief from the disabling symptoms of this disease and long-term dependence on steroids."

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