“The FDA supports the development of safe and effective treatments for rare diseases, and this new therapy can help people with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition where excessive cortisol production puts them at risk for other medical issues,” said Mary Thanh Hai, M.D., acting director of the Office of Drug Evaluation II in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “By helping patients achieve normal cortisol levels, this medication is an important treatment option for adults with Cushing’s disease.”
Cushing’s disease is caused by a pituitary tumor that releases too much of a hormone called adrenocorticotropin, which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce an excessive amount of cortisol. The disease is most common among adults between the ages of 30 to 50, and it affects women three times more often than men. Cushing’s disease can cause significant health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, blood clots in the legs and lungs, bone loss and fractures, a weakened immune system and depression. Patients may have thin arms and legs, a round red full face, increased fat around the neck, easy bruising, striae (purple stretch marks) and weak muscles.
Isturisa’s safety and effectiveness for treating Cushing’s disease among adults was evaluated in a study of 137 adult patients (about three-quarters women) with a mean age of 41 years. The majority of patients either had undergone pituitary surgery that did not cure Cushing’s disease or were not surgical candidates. In the 24-week, single-arm, open-label period, all patients received a starting dose of 2 milligrams (mg) of Isturisa twice a day that could be increased every two weeks up to 30 mg twice a day. At the end of this 24-week period, about half of patients had cortisol levels within normal limits. After this point, 71 patients who did not need further dose increases and tolerated the drug for the last 12 weeks entered an eight-week, double-blind, randomized withdrawal study where they either received Isturisa or a placebo (inactive treatment). At the end of this withdrawal period, 86% of patients receiving Isturisa maintained cortisol levels within normal limits compared to 30% of patients taking the placebo.
The most common side effects reported in the clinical trial for Isturisa were adrenal insufficiency, headache, vomiting, nausea, fatigue and edema (swelling caused by fluid retention). Hypocortisolism (low cortisol levels), QTc prolongation (a heart rhythm condition) and elevations in adrenal hormone precursors (inactive substance converted into a hormone) and androgens (hormone that regulates male characteristics) may also occur in people taking Isturisa.
Isturisa is taken by mouth twice a day, in the morning and evening as directed by a health care provider. After treatment has started, a provider may re-evaluate dosage, depending upon the patient’s response.
Isturisa received Orphan Drug Designation, which is a special status granted to a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition.
The FDA granted the approval of Isturisa to Novartis.
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.