Baricitinib Reduces Adult Atopic Dermatitis Severity in Phase 3 Study

Walter Alexander

October 26, 2020

Signs and symptoms of moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (AD) were significantly reduced with baricitinib 4 mg on top of topical corticosteroids, compared with placebo in the phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled, BREEZE-AD7 study.

The study enrolled patients with inadequate responses to topical corticosteroids, according to Kristian Reich, MD, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany, and his coauthors.

First Test of Baricitinib Plus Topical Steroids

Baricitinib, an oral selective Janus kinase (JAK)1/JAK2 inhibitor, inhibits several cytokines in AD pathogenesis, and in two monotherapy studies (BREEZE-AD1 and BREEZE-AD2), it was superior to placebo for reducing several AD clinical signs and symptoms. The current BREEZE-AD7 study is the first to test baricitinib plus background topical corticosteroid therapy, more closely mirroring clinical practice, the authors noted.

BREEZE-AD7 was conducted at 68 centers in 10 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America. It included 329 adults with moderate to severe AD (mean age around 34 years, and around 34% were female) with inadequate responses to topical corticosteroids documented within the last 6 months. They were randomized 1:1:1 to daily baricitinib 4 mg, daily baricitinib 2 mg, or placebo for 16 weeks. All patients received moderate- and/or low-potency topical corticosteroids (such as 0.1%triamcinolone cream and 2.5% hydrocortisone ointment, respectively) for active lesions.

Significant Benefit at 4 mg

At week 16, 31% of AD patients receiving baricitinib 4 mg achieved Validated Investigator Global Assessment for Atopic Dermatitis (vIGA-AD) scores of 0 (clear) or 1 (almost clear) versus 15% in the placebo group (odds ratio, 2.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-5.6; P = .004). Among patients receiving baricitinib 2 mg, 24% achieved vI-GA-AD scores of 0 or 1 (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 0.9-3.9; P = .08).

The same pattern of improving scores from placebo to baricitinib 2 mg to baricitinib 4 mg persisted, as reflected with secondary endpoints at week 16. Among patients receiving baricitinib 4 mg, 48% achieved Eczema Area Severity Index (EASI) 75 responses, versus 43% and 23% in 2 mg and placebo groups, respectively. Percent changes from baseline in total EASI score were –67%, –58%, –45% for baricitinib 4 mg, baricitinib 2 mg, and placebo, respectively; the proportion of patients achieving 4-point or greater improvements in Itch Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) was 44%, 38%, and 20% for baricitinib 4 mg, baricitinib 2 mg and placebo, respectively.

Similarly, mean change from baseline on the Skin Pain numeric rating scale was –3.7, –3.2, and –2.1 for baricitinib 4 mg, baricitinib 2 mg and placebo. Nighttime itch awakenings were also reduced in a similar progression from placebo to the higher baricitinib dose.

Adverse Events Dose Related

Treatment-related adverse events were reported more frequently in the baricitinib groups (58% baricitinib 4 mg, 56% baricitinib 2 mg) versus placebo 38%. Nasopharyngitis was most common, followed by oral herpes, upper respiratory tract infection, acne, diarrhea, and back pain. Serious adverse event rates were similar across treatment groups. Permanent discontinuation rates were low at 5% for baricitinib 4 mg, 0% for baricitinib 2 mg, and 1% for placebo. The side-effect profile for baricitinib was consistent with prior studies, Reich and his coauthors reported.

The authors noted further, "data in this study suggest that patients with AD treated with baricitinib may be able to reduce the frequency and total quantity of concomitant TCSs [topical corticosteroids] used, thus mitigating concerns associated with continual or sustained application of topical treatments."

"Overall, this study provides further evidence to support the efficacy and safety profile of baricitinib for the treatment of moderate-severe AD," commented one of the authors, Jonathan I. Silverberg, MD, PhD, MPH, of the department of dermatology at George Washington University in Washington.

"In particular, this study shows that adding topical corticosteroids to baricitinib increases the rate of treatment success compared with the efficacy seen in baricitinib monotherapy studies. These data will be important to guide the use of baricitinib with topical corticosteroids in clinical practice. I think these data are also important because they show that baricitinib 4 mg may be more effective than 2 mg in some patients," he said in an interview.

In late September, the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended approval of oral baricitinib for adults with moderate to severe AD who are candidates for systemic therapy. Baricitinib is approved in the European Union and the United States to treat moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis. If approved in Europe, it will be the first JAK inhibitor and first oral medication indicated to treat patients with AD.

The study was funded by Eli Lilly and Company under license from Incyte Corporation. Reich reported receiving fees to the institution for participation in clinical trials from Eli Lilly and Company during the conduct of the study and personal fees for lectures. Silverberg reported receiving fees from Eli Lilly and Company during the conduct of the study, and fees from companies outside of this work. Other authors also reported disclosures related to Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies, and several authors were Eli Lilly employees.

SOURCE: Reich K et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2020 Sep 30. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2020.3260 .

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