FDA approves drug to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy

FDAThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Emflaza (deflazacort) tablets and oral suspension to treat patients age 5 years and older with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle deterioration and weakness. Emflaza is a corticosteroid that works by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the immune system.

Corticosteroids are commonly used to treat DMD across the world. This is the first FDA approval of any corticosteroid to treat DMD and the first approval of deflazacort for any use in the United States.

"This is the first treatment approved for a wide range of patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy," said Billy Dunn, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "We hope that this treatment option will benefit many patients with DMD."

DMD is the most common type of muscular dystrophy. DMD is caused by an absence of dystrophin, a protein that helps keep muscle cells intact. The first symptoms are usually seen between 3 and 5 years of age and worsen over time. The disease often occurs in people without a known family history of the condition and primarily affects boys, but in rare cases it can affect girls. DMD occurs in about one of every 3,600 male infants worldwide.

People with DMD progressively lose the ability to perform activities independently and often require use of a wheelchair by their early teens. As the disease progresses, life-threatening heart and respiratory conditions can occur. Patients typically succumb to the disease in their 20s or 30s; however, disease severity and life expectancy vary.

The effectiveness of deflazacort was shown in a clinical study of 196 male patients who were 5 to 15 years old at the beginning of the trial with documented mutation of the dystrophin gene and onset of weakness before age 5. At week 12, patients taking deflazacort had improvements in a clinical assessment of muscle strength across a number of muscles compared to those taking a placebo. An overall stability in average muscle strength was maintained through the end of study at week 52 in the deflazacort-treated patients. In another trial with 29 male patients that lasted 104 weeks, deflazacort demonstrated a numerical advantage over placebo on an assessment of average muscle strength. In addition, although not statistically controlled for multiple comparisons, patients on deflazacort appeared to lose the ability to walk later than those treated with placebo.

The side effects caused by Emflaza are similar to those experienced with other corticosteroids. The most common side effects include facial puffiness (Cushingoid appearance), weight gain, increased appetite, upper respiratory tract infection, cough, extraordinary daytime urinary frequency (pollakiuria), unwanted hair growth (hirsutism) and excessive fat around the stomach (central obesity).

Other side effects that are less common include problems with endocrine function, increased susceptibility to infection, elevation in blood pressure, risk of gastrointestinal perforation, serious skin rashes, behavioral and mood changes, decrease in the density of the bones and vision problems such as cataracts. Patients receiving immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids should not be given live or live attenuated vaccines.

The FDA granted this application fast track designation and priority review. The drug also received orphan drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.

The sponsor is receiving a rare pediatric disease priority review voucher under a program intended to encourage development of new drugs and biologics for the prevention and treatment of rare pediatric diseases. A voucher can be redeemed by a sponsor at a later date to receive priority review of a subsequent marketing application for a different product. This is the ninth rare pediatric disease priority review voucher issued by the FDA since the program began.

Emflaza is marketed by Marathon Pharmaceuticals of Northbrook, Illinois.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Most Popular Now

Most popular vitamin and mineral supplements provi…

The most commonly consumed vitamin and mineral supplements provide no consistent health benefit or harm, suggests a new study led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital...

Tiny particles could help fight brain cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain tumor, is one of the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Only a handful of drugs are approved to treat glioblastoma, and the median ...

New approach to immunotherapy leads to complete re…

A novel approach to immunotherapy developed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has led to the complete regression of breast cancer in a patient who was...

Amgen Foundation and Harvard team up to offer free…

The Amgen Foundation and Harvard University today announced plans to launch a free online science education platform uniquely designed to level the playing field for aspi...

The Pfizer Foundation announces $5 million in gran…

The Pfizer Foundation announced a new $5 million grant commitment to initiatives in low- and middle-income countries that provide family planning access and education for...

What would help or hinder patient participation in…

As clinical trials gear up with the aim of attaining the first FDA-approved treatments for mitochondrial disease, a new study reports for the first time what patients and...

New drugs could also be deployed against lung and …

A new anti-cancer drug may be effective against a wider range of cancers than previously thought. Using a mouse model and samples taken from cancer patients, a team from ...

Update on Phase III clinical trials of lanabecesta…

AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) are discontinuing the global Phase III clinical trials of lanabecestat, an oral beta secretase cleaving enzyme (BACE) inhibi...

Pfizer to expand venture investing with $600 milli…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) today announced it plans to invest $600 million in biotechnology and other emerging growth companies through Pfizer Ventures, the company’s venture...

Soy lecithin NSAID combo drug protects against can…

When scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) applied a chemical found in soybeans to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSA...

Novartis receives positive CHMP opinion for Aimovi…

Novartis announced the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended approval for Aimovig® (erenumab) for t...

FDA takes action against 53 websites marketing una…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced that it has warned nine online networks, operating a total of 53 websites, that they must stop illegally marketing p...