The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has concluded its review of the benefits and risks of Iclusig (ponatinib), a medicine used for the treatment of leukaemia (cancer of the white blood cells), and has recommended strengthened warnings in the product information aimed at minimising the risk of blood clots and blockages in the arteries.

Iclusig is authorised for use in patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) who cannot take or tolerate several other medicines of the same class (known as ‘tyrosine-kinase inhibitors’). The review followed a previous assessment of clinical trial data which indicated that cases of blood clots and blockages in the arteries or veins were occurring at a higher rate than was observed at the time of the medicine’s initial authorisation.

The available evidence shows that the risk of blood vessel blockage with Iclusig is likely to be dose-related, however the data are insufficient to formally recommend the use of lower doses of Iclusig, and there is a risk that lower doses might not be as effective in all patients and in long-term treatment. Therefore, the recommended starting dose of Iclusig should remain 45 mg once a day. The product information will be updated with strengthened warnings about the risks with Iclusig, and to also provide healthcare professionals with the latest evidence in case they wish to consider reducing the dose of Iclusig in patients with ‘chronic phase’ CML who are responding well to treatment, and who might be at particular risk of blood vessel blockage. Additionally, healthcare professionals should stop Iclusig if a complete response has not occurred within three months of treatment, and should monitor patients for high blood pressure or signs of heart problems.

The company that markets Iclusig will provide healthcare professionals with educational material highlighting important risks for which monitoring and/or dose adjustments are recommended and including available data on the relationship between dose of Iclusig and risk of blood vessel blockage.

A study on the safety and benefits of Iclusig is also planned, to help clarify if lower doses of the medicine would carry a lower risk of blood clots or blockages of the blood vessels while still having a beneficial effect in patients with chronic phase CML.

The review of Iclusig was first carried out by the EMA’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC). During its review, the PRAC assessed available data on the nature, frequency and severity of blood clots or blockage of the arteries or veins and considered the potential mechanism for these side effects. The PRAC also sought the advice of a group of experts in oncology before finalising its recommendations, which have now been endorsed by the Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) in its final opinion. The CHMP opinion will be sent to the European Commission, which will issue a legally binding decision valid throughout the EU in due course.


Posted on the EMA website on 24 October 2014