- Exjade would be the first oral treatment approved specifically for patients with non-transfusion-dependent thalassemia (NTDT) syndromes
- Clinical data show Exjade significantly decreases iron burden in NTDT patients compared to placebo, with similar overall adverse event rate
- NTDT patients accumulate excess iron, increasing their risk of complications, including liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, blood clots and bone and vascular disease
Novartis announced today that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) adopted a positive opinion for Exjade® (deferasirox) for the treatment of chronic iron overload requiring chelation therapy when deferoxamine therapy is contraindicated or inadequate in patients aged 10 years and older with non-transfusion-dependent thalassemia (NTDT) syndromes. Exjade would be the first oral treatment in the European Union (EU) specifically indicated for the treatment of iron overload in patients with these types of thalassemia.
Results from the first prospective placebo-controlled study of iron chelation in NTDT patients, THALASSA, showed a significant dose-dependent decrease in iron burden compared to placebo. In this pivotal study, Exjade was well tolerated, with an overall adverse event rate similar to the placebo arm.
Thalassemia refers to a diverse group of genetic disorders that affect red blood cell production, causing anemia. Unlike patients with other types of thalassemia, those with NTDT syndromes can live without regular transfusions, a significant cause of iron overload. However, even without transfusions, NTDT patients still accumulate excess iron through intestinal absorption, leading to debilitating health complications like liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, blood clots, bone disease, pulmonary hypertension and vascular and endocrine diseases,.
“Patients with NTDT have suffered the effects of iron overload without accurate diagnosis, clear treatment guidelines or specifically approved oral therapies,” said Hervé Hoppenot, President, Novartis Oncology. “The CHMP recommendation is an important step toward improving the outcomes of patients with this type of thalassemia.”
According to published studies, at least three quarters of a million people worldwide have NTDT syndromes, although as understanding of the disease increases, it is probable the number will grow,,. Because NTDT patients are not symptomatic at birth, when most thalassemias are diagnosed, they are often underdiagnosed and undertreated. Many complications associated with iron overload begin to appear as early as age 10 and become increasingly common as patients reach their 20s or 30s. Most NTDT patients are of South and Southeast Asian, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern origin, with immigration broadening the global prevalence,.
The European Commission generally follows the recommendations of the CHMP and usually delivers its final decision within three months of the CHMP recommendation. The decision will be applicable to all 27 EU member states plus Iceland and Norway. Exjade has been approved to treat chronic iron overload in patients with NTDT in Canada and several other countries; further regulatory submissions are ongoing.
Exjade is an oral iron chelation therapy indicated for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to frequent blood transfusions (>=7 ml/kg/month of packed red blood cells) in patients with beta thalassemia aged 6 years and older). It is also indicated for the treatment of chronic iron overload due to blood transfusions when deferoxamine therapy is contraindicated or inadequate in the following patient groups: patients with beta thalassemia major with iron overload due to frequent blood transfusions (>=7 ml/kg/month of packed red blood cells) aged 2 to 5 years; patients with beta thalassemia major with iron overload due to infrequent blood transfusions (<7 ml/kg/month of packed red blood cells) aged 2 years and older; and patients with other anemias aged 2 years and older.
It is approved in more than 100 countries including the US, Switzerland, Japan and countries comprising the EU. The approved indication may vary depending upon the individual country.
Exjade important safety information
Exjade is contraindicated in patients with an estimated creatinine clearance <60 mL/min, with hypersensitivity to the active substance or any of the excipients, or in combination with other iron chelator therapies. Exjade is not recommended in patients with severe hepatic impairment.
There have been postmarketing reports of acute renal failure, hepatic failure and cytopenias. Renal failure requiring temporary or permanent dialysis, renal tubulopathy and interstitial nephritis have been reported. Upper gastrointestinal ulceration and hemorrhage, sometimes fatal, have been reported. Caution should be used in elderly patients due to a higher frequency of adverse reactions. Exjade is not recommended in patients with a short life expectancy (e.g., high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes), especially when co-morbidities could increase the risk of adverse events.
Skin rashes, serious hypersensitivity reactions, decreased hearing and lens opacities have been reported. The most common adverse reactions are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, rash, non-progressive increases in serum creatinine, increased transaminases, abdominal distension, constipation, dyspepsia, proteinuria and headache.
Please visit www.exjade.com for more information.
 Taher A, Porter J, Viprakasit V, et al. Deferasirox significantly reduces iron overload in non-transfusion-dependent thalassemia: 1-year results from a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Blood. 2012. Published online before print May 15, 2012.
 Musallam KM, Cappellini MD, Wood JC, et al. Iron overload in non-transfusion-dependent thalassemia: a clinical perspective. Blood Reviews. 2012:26S:S16-S19.
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 Thalassaemia International Federation. The Thalassaemia International Federation’s (TIF) New Focus: Addressing the Management of Non-Transfusion-Dependent Thalassaemias (NTDT). Position Paper 5.2. March 20, 2012. Accessed at: http://www.thalassaemia.org.cy/pdf/NTDT_Position_Paper_Final.pdf.
 Taher AT. Age-related complications in treatment-naïve patients with thalassemia intermedia. Brit J Haematol. 2010;150:486-489.
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 EMC. Summary of product characteristics: EXJADE 125 mg, 250mg, 500mg dispersible tablets. Last updated January 13, 2012. Accessed at: http://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/medicine/18805.
Source: Novartis newsletter.