Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of novel therapeutics to treat non-viral, progressive liver diseases, has announced that the FDA has granted accelerated approval to Ocaliva (obeticholic acid) for the treatment of primary biliary cholangitis, previously known as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), in combination with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in adults with an inadequate response to UDCA or as monotherapy in adults unable to tolerate UDCA. Ocaliva is an agonist of the farnesoid X receptor (FXR), a nuclear receptor expressed in the liver and intestine and a key regulator of bile acid, inflammatory, fibrotic and metabolic pathways.
"Intercept was founded on the belief that targeting FXR would benefit patients with liver diseases for which there are limited or no treatment options, and Ocaliva's approval marks the culmination of more than a decade of work," said Mark Pruzanski, M.D., chief executive officer and president of Intercept. "We are very pleased that the FDA has approved Ocaliva for PBC and would like to thank all the patients and investigators around the world who participated in our clinical trials to make this possible."
This indication is approved under accelerated approval based on a reduction in alkaline phosphatase (ALP). An improvement in survival or disease-related symptoms has not been established. Continued approval for this indication may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in confirmatory trials.
"Ocaliva fills an important unmet need for the many patients with PBC who have an inadequate response to or are intolerant of UDCA, which until now has been the only approved treatment," said John Vierling, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.A.S.L.D., professor of Medicine and Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine and Past President of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). "Ocaliva has demonstrated a clinically meaningful improvement in lowering ALP, a liver enzyme and biomarker that is used to track disease progression in patients with PBC. Importantly, Ocaliva maintained durable ALP reductions, which is critical for treatment of a chronic disease like PBC."
In Intercept's phase III POISE trial, Ocaliva administration in combination with UDCA (or as monotherapy in UDCA-intolerant patients) met the primary composite endpoint in 46% of patients in the titration group, as compared to 10% of those receiving placebo added to UDCA (p<0.0001). Pruritus (itching), a common symptom of PBC that is unrelated to disease stage or outcomes, was the most common side effect observed in Ocaliva-treated patients. However, pruritus associated with Ocaliva treatment was generally less in patients who were on the dose titration regimen (5mg once-daily increasing to 10mg once-daily); one patient (1%) in the titration group discontinued from the study due to pruritus. Additional side effects observed during the trial included fatigue, abdominal pain and discomfort, rash, oropharyngeal pain, dizziness, constipation, arthralgia, thyroid function abnormality and eczema.
"PBC affects people in the prime of their lives and, for some, the potential need for a liver transplant is a constant concern during these important years," said Linie Moore, a PBC patient and president of the PBCers Organization, a PBC patient support group in the U.S. "After nearly two decades with only one approved treatment, we are thrilled to welcome this important new medicine for people living with PBC."
Ocaliva is expected to be available to PBC patients in the U.S. within seven to 10 days and will be distributed through a specialty pharmacy network. Intercept is dedicated to helping ensure that people with PBC can access Ocaliva and has launched Interconnect, a comprehensive and personalized patient support services program. Through Interconnect, dedicated Care Coordinators will guide patients through disease education, treatment support and, for eligible patients, financial assistance options, which may include reimbursement support, co-pay assistance or access to Ocaliva at no cost.
The POISE trial studied the safety and efficacy of once-daily treatment with Ocaliva in PBC patients with an inadequate therapeutic response to, or who are unable to tolerate, UDCA. The POISE data showed that Ocaliva, at both a 10mg dose and a 5mg dose titrated to 10mg, met the trial's primary endpoint of achieving a reduction in serum ALP to below a threshold of 1.67 times the upper limit of normal, with a minimum of 15% reduction in ALP level from baseline, and a normal bilirubin level after 12 months of therapy. Pruritus was the most frequently reported adverse event associated with Ocaliva treatment. In a group of patients who initiated Ocaliva at a 5mg once-daily dose and titrated up to 10mg once daily, only one patient (1%) discontinued from the study due to pruritus as compared to seven patients (10%) in the 10 mg dose group and after 12 months of treatment, efficacy was essentially equivalent to those patients who started the study at the 10mg dose. Based on these results, a 5mg to 10mg titration regimen is recommended for Ocaliva dosing in PBC. Decreases in HDL-C were observed during treatment.