Patients should be monitored for infection and given antibiotics during and after treatment

The CHMP (EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use) has confirmed that the benefits of Zydelig (idelalisib) in the treatment of the blood cancers chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) and follicular lymphoma outweigh the risk of side effects. However, following a review it has updated recommendations to minimise the risk of serious infections in patients treated with the medicine.

All patients treated with Zydelig should be given preventive medication against the lung infection Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia during treatment and this should be continued for up to 6 months after treatment with Zydelig has stopped. Patients receiving Zydelig should also be monitored for signs of infection and have regular blood tests to measure the level of white blood cells. Low white cell counts can indicate an increased risk of infection and treatment may need to be interrupted. Zydelig should also not be started in patients with any generalised infection.

In addition, following an interim precautionary recommendation not to start Zydelig treatment in previously untreated patients with CLL that has certain genetic mutations, the CHMP now concludes that treatment with Zydelig can again be started in these patients provided they alternative treatments are not suitable and provided that the measures to prevent infection are followed.

The review, which was carried out by EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), was started because of deaths seen in 3 studies in which Zydelig was given to patient groups for whom it is not licensed, or in unlicensed combinations with other medicines. In its review the PRAC evaluated data from these studies, together with other available evidence as well as advice from experts in this field. Although the studies did not use the medicine in the same way as currently authorised, the review concluded that the risk of serious infection had some relevance to the authorised use. The CHMP has confirmed the recommendations from the PRAC review, and its opinion will now be sent to the European Commission for a final legally binding decision.

Posted on the EMA website on 22 July 2016