FDA Approves First-Ever Agent to Delay Type 1 Diabetes Onset

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody teplizumab-mzwv (Tzield, Provention Bio) to delay the onset of clinical type 1 diabetes in people aged 8 years and older who are at high risk for developing the condition.

“Today’s approval of a first-in-class therapy adds an important new treatment option for certain at-risk patients,” said John Sharretts, MD, director of the Division of Diabetes, Lipid Disorders, and Obesity in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The drug’s potential to delay clinical diagnosis of type 1 diabetes may provide patients with months to years without the burdens of disease.”

The agent, which interferes with T-cell-mediated autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells, is the first disease-modifying therapy for impeding progression of type 1 diabetes. It is administered by intravenous infusion once daily for 14 consecutive days.

The specific indication is “to delay the onset of stage 3 type 1 diabetes in adults and pediatric patients 8 years and older who currently have stage 2 type 1 diabetes.” In type 1 diabetes staging, adopted in 2015, stage 1 is defined as the presence of beta cell autoimmunity with two or more islet autoantibodies with normoglycemia, stage 2 is beta-cell autoimmunity with dysglycemia yet asymptomatic, and stage 3 is the onset of symptomatic type 1 diabetes.

Stage 2 type 1 diabetes is associated with a nearly 100% lifetime risk of progression to clinical (stage 3) type 1 diabetes and a 75% risk of developing the condition within 5 years.

The FDA had previously rejected teplizumab for this indication in July 2021 because of study design issues, despite a prior endorsement from an advisory panel in May 2021.

Now, with the FDA approval, Provention Bio co-founder and CEO Ashleigh Palmer says in a statement, “This is a historic occasion for the T1D community and a paradigm shifting breakthrough…It cannot be emphasized enough how precious a delay in the onset of Stage 3 T1D can be from a patient and family perspective; more time to live without and, when necessary, prepare for the burdens, complications, and risks associated with Stage 3 disease.”

T1D Onset Delayed by Two Years

In 2019, a pivotal phase 2, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 76 at-risk children and adults ages 8 years and older showed that a single 14-day treatment of daily intravenous infusions of teplizumab in 44 patients resulted in a significant median 2-year delay to onset of clinical type 1 diabetes compared with 32 who received placebo.

Those “game changer” data were presented at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) annual meeting in June 2019 and simultaneously published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Three-year data were presented at the June 2020 ADA meeting and published in March 2021 in Science Translational Medicine, by Emily K. Sims, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, and colleagues.

At a median follow-up of 923 days, 50% of those randomly assigned to teplizumab remained diabetes free, compared with only 22% of those who received placebo infusions (hazard ratio, 0.457; P = .01). The teplizumab group had a greater average C-peptide area under the curve compared with placebo, reflecting improved beta-cell function (1.96 vs 1.68 pmol/mL; P = .006).

C-peptide levels declined over time in the placebo group but stabilized in those receiving teplizumab (P = .0015). 

“The mid-range time from randomization to stage 3 type 1 diabetes diagnosis was 50 months for the patients who received Tzield and 25 months for those who received a placebo. This represents a statistically significant delay in the development of stage 3 type 1 diabetes,” according to the FDA statement.

The most common side effects of Tzield include lymphopenia (73% teplizumab vs 6% placebo), rash (36% vs 0%), leukopenia (221% vs 0%), and headache (11% vs 6%). Label warnings and precautions include monitoring for cytokine release syndrome, risk for serious infections, and avoidance of live, inactivated, and mRNA vaccines.

This approval is likely to accelerate discussion about universal autoantibody screening. Currently, most individuals identified as having preclinical type 1 diabetes are first-degree relatives of people with type 1 diabetes identified through the federally funded TrialNet program. In December 2020, the type 1 diabetes research and advocacy organization JDRF began offering a $55 home blood test to screen for the antibodies, and other screening programs have been launched in the US and Europe.  

Previous studies have examined cost-effectiveness of universal screening in children and the optimal ages that such screening should take place.  

In October, Provention Bio announced a co-promotion agreement with Sanofi for the US launch of Tzield for delay in onset of clinical T1D in at-risk individuals. Provention Bio offers financial assistance options (eg, copay assistance) to eligible patients for out-of-pocket costs.

Miriam E. Tucker is a freelance journalist based in the Washington DC area. She is a regular contributor to Medscape, with other work appearing in the Washington Post, NPR’s Shots blog, and Diabetes Forecast magazine. She is on Twitter @MiriamETucker.

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