FDA OKs Ritlecitinib for Ages 12 and Up for Alopecia Areata

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved ritlecitinib for the treatment of severe alopecia areata in people ages 12 and older, the manufacturer announced.

Taken as a once-daily pill, ritlecitinib is a dual inhibitor of the TEC family of tyrosine kinases and of Janus kinase 3 (JAK3). The recommended dose of ritlecitinib, which will be marketed as Litfulo, is 50 mg once a day, according to the statement announcing the approval from Pfizer.

It is the second JAK inhibitor approved for treating alopecia areata (AA) following approval last year in June of baricitinib (Olumiant), for alopecia areata in adults. Ritlecitinib is the first JAK inhibitor approved for children ages 12 and older with AA.  

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also accepted the Marketing Authorization Application for ritlecitinib in the same population and a decision is expected in the fourth quarter of this year.

Approval Based on ALLEGRO Trials

Approval was based on  previously announced results from trials, including the phase 2b/3 ALLEGRO study of ritlecitinib in 718 patients aged 12 years and older with alopecia areata, with 50% of more scalp hair loss, as measured by the Severity of Alopecia Tool (SALT), including patients with alopecia totalis (complete scalp hair loss) and alopecia universalis (complete scalp, face, and body hair loss).

Patients in the trial were experiencing a current episode of alopecia areata that had lasted between 6 months and 10 years. They were randomized to receive once-daily ritlecitinib at doses of 30 mg or 50 mg (with or without 1 month of initial treatment with once-daily ritlecitinib 200 mg), ritlecitinib 10 mg, or placebo.

Statistically significantly higher proportions of patients treated with ritlecitinib 30 mg and 50 mg (with or without the loading dose) had 80% or more scalp hair coverage, as measured by a SALT score of 20 or less after 6 months of treatment versus placebo. After 6 months of treatment, among those on the 50-mg dose, 23% had achieved a SALT score of 20 or less compared with 2% of those on placebo. The results were published in April in The Lancet .

According to the company release, efficacy and safety of ritlecitinib was consistent between those ages 12-17 and adults, and the most common adverse events reported in the study, in at least 4% of patients treated with ritlecitinib, were headache (10.8%), diarrhea (10%), acne (6.2%), rash (5.4%), and urticaria (4.6%). 

Ritlecitinib labeling includes the boxed warning about the risk for serious infections, mortality, malignancy, major adverse cardiovascular events, and thrombosis, which is included in the labels for other JAK inhibitors. 

Ritlecitinib Evaluated for Other Diseases

In addition to alopecia areata, ritlecitinib has shown efficacy and acceptable safety in treating rheumatoid arthritis and is being evaluated for treating vitiligo, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

In the statement, the company says that ritlecitinib will be available “in the coming weeks.” The manufacturer says it also has completed regulatory submissions for ritlecitinib in the United Kingdom, China, and Japan, and expects decisions this year.

Alopecia areata affects about 6.8 million people in the United States and 147 million globally.

In a statement, Nicole Friedland, president and CEO of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF), said that NAAF “is thrilled to have a second FDA-approved treatment for alopecia areata, which is the first approved for adolescents.”

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.

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