FDA Puts Partial Hold on Investigational Alopecia Areata Drug Deuruxolitinib

Marcia Frellick

May 03, 2023

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked the manufacturer of the investigational drug for alopecia areata, deuruxolitinib to stop trials of the 12-mg dose because of the potential for thrombotic events, the company said in a press release on May 2.

The announcement came after a pulmonary embolism occurred with the 12-mg twice-daily dose in one of the long-term open label extension (OLE) studies, the company, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, said.

The company stated that the FDA has placed the Investigational New Drug testing for deuruxolitinib on partial clinical hold, and the agency is requiring that study participants who are currently on the 12-mg twice-daily dose in the OLE studies stop taking that dose. The hold covers only the 12-mg dose.

No Hold on 8-Mg Dose

"There have been no thrombotic events reported to date for the 8 mg BID dose and US FDA has not placed the 8 mg BID dose on hold," the company said in the statement.

The statement added, "We are taking immediate steps to transition the patients in the OLE studies to the 8 mg BID dose arm in the ongoing studies."

The company said that no thromboembolic events were observed in the phase 2 or phase 3 trials and said that it will work closely with the FDA to address its concerns. A formal letter detailing the FDA's concerns is expected within 30 days.

Deuruxolitinib is an investigational oral selective inhibitor of Janus kinase 1 (JAK1) and JAK2 enzymes.

The FDA has granted deuruxolitinib breakthrough therapy designation for the treatment of adult patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata as well as fast-track designation for the treatment of alopecia areata.

In March, Medscape Medical News reported from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) annual meeting that based on phase 3 studies that demonstrate robust hair growth in about one third of patients, deuruxolitinib has the potential to become the second JAK inhibitor available for the treatment of alopecia areata. If approved, it will join baricitinib (Olumiant), which received FDA approval almost 1 year ago.

Also at AAD, Medscape Medical News reported that principal investigator Brett A. King, MD, PhD, associate professor of dermatology, Yale University, in his presentation on the results of THRIVE-AA2, one of the two phase 3 trials of deuruxolitinib, displayed several before-and-after photos and said, "The photos tell the whole story. This is why there is so much excitement about these drugs." Dr King also was a principal investigator in studies of baricitinib.

With one exception, labeling for baricitinib and other JAK inhibitors with dermatologic indications includes a boxed warning listing serious adverse events including the risk for major adverse cardiac events, and thrombosis, including pulmonary embolism, based on the risks in a rheumatoid arthritis study.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.

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