EMA developing physician guidance for potential liver damage after taking Zolgensma
The European Medicines Agency is working on new advice for healthcare providers treating patients with Zolgensma, five months after two child patient deaths in Russia and Kazakhstan.
That includes monitoring the liver function of patients treated with the gene therapy and quickly assessing cases of suspected liver damage, Reuters first reported.
The EMA released its own statement after the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee meeting on Jan. 12:
Healthcare professionals should promptly assess patients with worsening liver function tests and/or signs or symptoms of acute liver illness. If patients do not respond adequately to treatment with corticosteroids, treating physicians should consult a paediatric gastroenterologist or hepatologist and consider adjustment of the corticosteroid regimen.
Back in August, Novartis confirmed that two patients had died from acute liver failure after treatment with Zolgensma, Novartis’ gene therapy designed as a one-time treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, a rare and fatal disease. They died approximately five to six weeks post-Zolgensma infusion, and about one to 10 days after doctors began to taper corticosteroids.
A Novartis spokesperson told Endpoints News that discussions with the EMA have been ongoing since Novartis first notified the agency of these cases and that there is no longer an investigation into the two patient deaths.
When asked about the investigation’s findings, the company responded, “The two deaths were the result of acute liver failure following treatment with Zolgensma. Liver toxicity, including acute liver failure, is a known risk associated with Zolgensma and the subject of labeling including our boxed warning in US.”
Further discussion on guidance for physicians will go to several more committees within the EMA, including the Committee for Advanced Therapies and to the Human Medicines Committee.
If the guidance is approved, it will be sent to healthcare providers by the marketing authorization holders.
“We continually assess changes to treatment or monitoring recommendations for Zolgensma. Pending health authority review and approval, the Zolgensma label will be updated to inform prescribers that fatal acute liver failure has been reported,” a Novartis spokesperson told Endpoints via email. “Additionally, communications distributed to prescribers stress the importance of enhanced monitoring of liver function during corticosteroid tapering period, and for at least three months after Zolgensma infusion, and/or at other times as clinically indicated.”
The drug won conditional EU approval in 2020 and is considered one of the most expensive drugs in the world, with a price tag of $2.1 million.