I personally want to thank all those involved in getting fingolimod licensed as the first disease-modifying therapy for children and adolescents with MS. Getting this trial done was a ‘mission impossible’. Novartis, the steering committee, investigators and all study participants must be congratulated on getting past the finish line. History will judge this as an important milestone for MSers and the wider MS community.
However, I am very disappointed that the EMA (CHMP) only licensed this for highly-active or rapidly-evolving severe MS. Why the restrictive label? When will the EMA beging to trust neurologist, MSers and their families to do the right thing? The way the EMA treat us is insulting and does not put MSers’ interests first.
Surely it is time to change fingolimod’s label? We need fingolimod to be first-line. Why can’t we be trusted to use fingolimod wisely in the interests of our patients with active MS? Surely it is safer than alemtuzumab? Possibly safer than ocrelizumab? Can someone explain the thinking and logic behind the latest pair of EMA handcuffs?
On 20 September 2018, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) adopted a positive opinion recommending a change to the terms of the marketing authorisation for the medicinal product Gilenya. The marketing authorisation holder for this medicinal product is Novartis Europharm Limited.
The CHMP adopted an extension to the existing indication as follows:
“Gilenya is indicated as single disease modifying therapy in highly active relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis for the following groups of adult patients and paediatric patients aged 10 years and older:
Patients with highly active disease despite a full and adequate course of treatment with at least one disease-modifying therapy (for exceptions and information about washout periods see sections 4.4 and 5.1).
Patients with rapidly evolving severe relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis defined by 2 or more disabling relapses in one year, and with 1 or more Gadolinium enhancing lesions on brain MRI or a significant increase in T2 lesion load as compared to a previous recent MRI.”
Detailed recommendations for the use of this product will be described in the updated summary of product characteristics (SmPC), which will be published in the revised European public assessment report (EPAR), and will be available in all official European Union languages after a decision on this change to the marketing authorisation has been granted by the European Commission.
The timing of this is fortuitous as the study has recently been published in the NEJM:
Chitnis et al. Trial of Fingolimod versus Interferon Beta-1a in Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis. N Engl J Med. 2018 Sep 13;379(11):1017-1027.
BACKGROUND: Treatment of patients younger than 18 years of age with multiple sclerosis has not been adequately examined in randomized trials. We compared fingolimod with interferon beta-1a in this population.
METHODS: In this phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned patients 10 to 17 years of age with relapsing multiple sclerosis in a 1:1 ratio to receive oral fingolimod at a dose of 0.5 mg per day (0.25 mg per day for patients with a body weight of ≤40 kg) or intramuscular interferon beta-1a at a dose of 30 μg per week for up to 2 years. The primary end point was the annualized relapse rate.
RESULTS: Of a total of 215 patients, 107 were assigned to fingolimod and 108 to interferon beta-1a. The mean age of the patients was 15.3 years. Among all patients, there was a mean of 2.4 relapses during the preceding 2 years. The adjusted annualized relapse rate was 0.12 with fingolimod and 0.67 with interferon beta-1a (absolute difference, 0.55 relapses; relative difference, 82%; P<0.001). The key secondary end point of the annualized rate of new or newly enlarged lesions on T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was 4.39 with fingolimod and 9.27 with interferon beta-1a (absolute difference, 4.88 lesions; relative difference, 53%; P<0.001). Adverse events, excluding relapses of multiple sclerosis, occurred in 88.8% of patients who received fingolimod and 95.3% of those who received interferon beta-1a. Serious adverse events occurred in 18 patients (16.8%) in the fingolimod group and included seizures (in 4 patients), infection (in 4 patients), and leukopenia (in 2 patients). Serious adverse events occurred in 7 patients (6.5%) in the interferon beta-1a group and included infection (in 2 patients) and supraventricular tachycardia (in 1 patient).
CONCLUSIONS: Among pediatric patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, fingolimod was associated with a lower rate of relapse and less accumulation of lesions on MRI over a 2-year period than interferon beta-1a but was associated with a higher rate of serious adverse events. Longer studies are required to determine the durability and safety of fingolimod in pediatric multiple sclerosis. (Funded by Novartis Pharma; PARADIGMS ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01892722 .).
Comment in: Therapy in Multiple Sclerosis – Coming of Age. [N Engl J Med. 2018].
CoI: Multiple; in addition Prof G is a member of the PARADIGMS trial steering committee