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Press release 13/03/2020

EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) has recommended women to stop taking 5-mg ulipristal acetate (Esmya and generic medicines) for uterine fibroids while a safety review is ongoing. No new patients should start treatment with the medicines, which will be temporarily suspended throughout the EU during the review.

EMA is starting its review at the request of the European Commission following a recent case of liver injury, which led to liver transplantation in a patient taking the medicine.

A 2018 EMA review concluded that there is a risk of rare but serious liver injury with ulipristal acetate medicines for the treatment of uterine fibroids, and measures were implemented to minimise the risk. However, as the new case of serious liver injury occurred in spite of adherence to these measures, EMA is starting a new review.

Cases of serious liver injury have been reported, including 5 that led to transplantation, out of over 900,000 patients who have been treated with ulipristal acetate for fibroids since its authorisation in 2012.

Ulipristal acetate is also authorised as a single-dose medicine for emergency contraception. This review does not affect the single-dose ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive (ellaOne and other trade names) and there is no concern about liver injury with these medicines.

Further information and updated recommendations will be provided once the review is concluded.

For more information:

Suspension of ulipristal acetate for uterine fibroids during ongoing EMA review of liver injury risk

EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) has recommended that patients should be tested for the lack of an enzyme called dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD) before starting cancer treatment with medicines containing fluorouracil given by injection or infusion (drip) and the related medicines capecitabine and tegafur, which are converted to fluorouracil in the body.

As treatment for severe fungal infections with flucytosine (another medicine related to fluorouracil) should not be delayed, testing patients for DPD deficiency before they start treatment is not required.

No pre-treatment testing is needed for patients treated with topical fluorouracil (applied to the skin to treat various skin conditions).

Lack of a working DPD enzyme [1], which is needed to break down fluorouracil, causes fluorouracil to build up in the blood. This may lead to severe and life-threatening side effects such as neutropenia (low levels of neutrophils, a type of white blood cells needed to fight infection), neurotoxicity (damage to the body’s nervous system), severe diarrhoea and stomatitis (inflammation of the lining of the mouth).

For more information:

Fluorouracil and fluorouracil related substances (capecitabine, tegafur and flucytosine) containing medicinal products


[1]Up to 8% of the Caucasian population have low levels of a working DPD enzyme, and up to 0.5% completely lack the enzyme.

EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) has recommended that medicines with daily doses of 10 mg or more of cyproterone should only be used for androgen-dependent conditions such as hirsutism (excessive hair growth), alopecia (hair loss), acne and seborrhoea (excessively oily skin) once other treatment options, including treatment with lower doses, have failed. Once higher doses have started working, the dose should be gradually reduced to the lowest effective dose.

The medicines should only be used for reduction of sex drive in sexual deviations in men when other treatment options are not suitable.

There is no change in use of the medicines in men for prostate cancer.

The recommendations follow a review of the risk of the rare tumour meningioma with cyproterone. Overall, this side effect is rare: it may affect between 1 and 10 in 10,000 people, depending on the dose and duration of treatment. The risk increases with increasing cumulative doses (the total amount of medicine a patient has taken over time).

Available data do not indicate a risk for low-dose cyproterone medicines containing 1 or 2 milligrams cyproterone in combination with ethinylestradiol or estradiol valerate and used for acne, hirsutism, contraception, or hormone replacement therapy. However, as a precaution, they should not be used in people who have or have had a meningioma. This restriction is already in place for the higher dose medicines.

More information is available on the hyperlink below.

Cyproterone-containing medicinal products

EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) recommended restricting Lemtrada for use in adults with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis that is highly active despite adequate treatment with at least one disease-modifying therapy or if the disease is worsening rapidly with at least two disabling relapses in a year and brain-imaging showing new damage.

The PRAC had issued interim measures on Lemtrada while reviewing reports of serious reactions. The PRAC completed the review and recommended that Lemtrada must no longer be used in in patients with certain heart, circulation or bleeding disorders or in patients who have auto-immune disorders other than multiple sclerosis.

The recommendations reflect PRAC’s review of reports concerning rare but serious effects, including deaths, from immune-mediated conditions (caused by the body’s defence system not working properly) and serious disorders of the heart, circulation and bleeding.

More information is available on the hyperlink below:

Lemtrada for multiple sclerosis: measures to minimise risk of serious side effects

The PRAC concluded that Xeljanz (tofacitinib) could increase the risk of blood clots in the lungs and in deep veins in patients who are already at high risk.

The PRAC recommended that Xeljanz should be used with caution in patients at high risk of blood clots. In addition, the maintenance doses of 10 mg twice daily should not be used in patients with ulcerative colitis who are at high risk unless there is no suitable alternative treatment. Patients older than 65 years of age should be treated with Xeljanz only when there is no other appropriate treatment.

These recommendations follow the PRAC’s review of an ongoing study in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The study showed an increased risk of blood clots in deep veins and in the lungs with both the 5 mg and 10 mg twice daily doses of Xeljanz as compared with patients taking TNF-inhibitors (medicines that help reduce inflammation).

More information is available on the hyperlink below.

https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/meeting-highlights-pharmacovigilance-risk-assessment-committee-prac-28-31-october-2019

EMA’s safety committee (PRAC) is recommending new measures to avoid dosing errors that have led to some patients incorrectly taking methotrexate-containing medicines daily instead of weekly.

The new measures include restricting who can prescribe these medicines, making warnings on the packaging more prominent and providing educational materials for patients and healthcare professionals. In addition, to help patients follow the once-weekly dosing, methotrexate tablets for weekly use will be provided in blister packs and not in bottles (or tubes).

Methotrexate is used for treating both inflammatory diseases and cancers. When used for inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and psoriasis, it is taken once a week but for some types of cancer, a much higher dosage is needed and the medicine is taken more frequently. Mistakes in prescribing or dispensing methotrexate as well as misunderstandings of the dosing schedule have led to patients taking the medicine daily instead of weekly for inflammatory diseases, with serious consequences, including fatalities

Мore information:

https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/medicines/human/referrals/methotrexate-containing-medicinal-products

Regular liver function testing required during treatment

The PRAC has completed its review of Esmya (ulipristal acetate), used to treat moderate to severe symptoms of uterine fibroids (benign tumours of the womb), following reports of serious liver injury.

After considering all the evidence, the PRAC concluded that the medicine must not be used in women with liver problems and that certain other patients may start new treatment courses provided they have regular liver tests. In addition, PRAC recommended that Esmya should be used for more than one treatment course only in women who are not eligible for surgery.

The PRAC’s recommendations will now be forwarded to the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) for the adoption of EMA’s final opinion, and this will then go to the European Commission for a final legal decision. A letter will be sent to doctors to inform them of the new restrictions of use, which will become applicable after a Commission decision is issued.

More information:

PRAC recommends new measures to minimise risk of rare but serious liver injury with Esmya for fibroids

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started a review of the risk of dosing errors with methotrexate medicines. When used for inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and psoriasis, methotrexate is taken once a week whereas for some types of cancer, the dose is higher and the medicine is used more frequently. Mistakes have led to some patients incorrectly receiving a dose every day instead of every week. As a result, patients have received too much of the medicine, with serious consequences in some cases.

More information:

Methotrexate containing medicinal products

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended contraindicating the use of the prostate cancer medicine Xofigo (radium-223 dichloride) with Zytiga (abiraterone acetate) and prednisone/prednisolone, due to an increased risk of death and fractures with this combination.

More information:

Prostate cancer medicine Xofigo must not be used with Zytiga and prednisone/prednisolone

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