Key clinical-trial evidence for apremilast

Author:Anoma Ranaweera B.V.Sc; PhD (Clinical Biochemistry, University of Liverpool, UK); Chief Editor: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, January 2015.


Apremilast (Otezla®; Cellgene, New Jersey, USA) is an oral small molecule inhibitor of the enzyme phosphodiesterase 4, which plays an important role in chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis.

On September 23, 2014 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved apremilast for treatment of patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis mostly on the basis of results from 2 multicentre clinical trials — ESTEEM 1 and ESTEEM 2.

ESTEEM trials

  • FDA approval for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis was based on results from the ESTEEM trials.
  • In these trials, 1257 patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis were randomized 2:1 to apremilast 30 mg twice daily (after a titration period) or placebo.
  • The primary end point was the number of patients with a 75% improvement in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI-75).
  • In ESTEEM 1, significantly more patients receiving apremilast achieved a 75% reduction in PASI (psoriasis area severity index – a tool used to measure the severity and extent of psoriasis) score compared to placebo (33.1% vs 5.3%; P<.0001) at 16 weeks.
  • In ESTEEM 2, significantly more patients receiving apremilast also achieved PASI-75 compared to placebo (28.8% vs 5.8%; P<.0001) at 16 weeks.
  • In the ESTEEM trials, the majority of adverse events with apremilast were considered mild to moderate in severity and consisted primarily of nausea and vomiting, which generally resolved within 1 month.
  • Notably, key clinical trials with Enbrel® (etanercept) have found that approximately 38% to 40% of patients achieve PASI-75 within a similar timeframe. Key trials with Remicade® (infliximab) and Humira® (adalimumab) have found that approximately 60% to 64% and 49% to 59%, respectively, achieve PASI-75 within a similar time frame.

The proportion of subjects who achieved PASI-75 responses, and sPGA (static physician global assessment score — physician's impression of the disease at a single point) of clear (0) or almost clear (1), are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Clinical Response at Week 16 in Studies ESTEEM-1 and ESTEEM-2
ESTEEM - 1ESTEEM 2
  Placebo Apremilast Placebo Apremilast
No. randomised 282 562 137 274
PASI 75%; no. (%) 15 (5.3) 186 (33.1) 8 (5.8) 79 (28.8)
sPGA no. (%) 11 (3.9) 122 (21.7) 6 (4.4) 56 (20.4)

Adverse reactions

  • The safety of apremialst has been assessed in 3 randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving 1426 adult subjects with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
  • Subjects were randomized to 30 mg twice daily apremilast or placebo.
  • Subjects ranged in age from 18 to 83 years, with an overall median age of 46 years.
  • Adverse reactions are summarised in Table 2.

Table 2 Adverse reactions reported in >1% of subjects on apremilst and with greater frequency than in subjects on placebo; up to day 112 (Week 16)

Adverse reactionPlacebo (N= 506) no. (%)Apremilast (N= 920) no. (%)
Diarrhea 32 (6) 160 (17)
Nausea 35 (7) 155 (17)
Upper respiratory tract infection 31 (6) 84 (9)
Tension headache 21 (4) 75 (8)
Headache 19 (4) 55 (6)
Abdominal pain 11 (2) 39 (4)
Vomiting 8 (2) 35 (4)
Fatigue 9 (2) 29 (3)
Dyspepsia 6 (1) 29 (3)
Decrease appetite 5 (1) 26 (3)
Insomnia 4 (1) 21 (2)
Back pain 4 (1) 20 (2)
Migraine 5 (1) 19 (2)
Frequent bowel movements 1 (0) 17 (2)
Depression 2 (0) 12 (1)
Bronchitis 2 (0) 12 (1)
Tooth abscess 0 (0) 10 (1)
Folliculitis 0 (0) 9 (1)
Sinus headache 0 (0) 9 (1)

Future directions

  • Apremilast has demonstrated safety and efficacy in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis and plaque psoriasis.
  • However, apremilast has not been compared to other approved treatments for psoriasis, and results from the placebo-controlled trials suggest a degree of efficacy that may be less than most FDA-approved biologic alternatives.
  • Apremilast likely offers an oral alternative to biologics in patients not responding adequately to biologics (e.g. adalimumab, infliximab, etanercept, ustekinumab), those with a diminished response over time, and those who are unable to take or tolerate the biologic agents.
  • Further clinical trial data and real-world experience are required to assess apremilast's true value versus other agents in the management of psoriasis.

 

Related Information

References:

  • Papp K, Griffiths C, Leonardi C, et al. Apremilast, an oral phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor, in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis: results from the randomized treatment withdrawal phase of a phase 3, randomized, controlled trial (ESTEEM 1). Poster session: The American Academy of Dermatology 72nd Annual Meeting; 2014 March 21–25; Denver, CO.
  • Paul C, Crowley J, Cather J, et al. Apremilast, an oral phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitor, in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis: 16-week results of a phase 3 randomized, controlled trial (ESTEEM 2). Poster session: The American Academy of Dermatology 72nd Annual Meeting; 2014 March 21–25; Denver, CO.

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