Treatment with Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in patients with atopic dermatitis (AD), according to a new systemic review and meta-analysis, published online in JAMA Dermatology.
“These findings may provide a reference for clinicians in prescribing JAK inhibitors for patients with AD, warfarin ú inky ” Tai-Li Chen, MD, of Taipei (Taiwan) Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, and colleagues wrote in the study.
The results shed some welcome light on treatment for this dermatologic population, for whom enthusiasm about JAK inhibitors was dampened by the addition of a boxed warning to the labels of JAK inhibitors last year, required by the Food and Drug Administration. The warning, which describes an increased risk of “serious heart-related events such as heart attack or stroke, cancer, blood clots, and death” was triggered by results of the ORAL Surveillance study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) treated with tofacitinib.
The boxed warning is also included in the labels of topical ruxolitinib, a JAK inhibitor approved by the FDA for mild to moderate AD in 2021, and in the labels of two oral JAK inhibitors, upadacitinib and abrocitinib, approved by the FDA for treating moderate to severe AD in January 2022.
Despite the new findings, some dermatologists are still urging caution.
“All the JAK inhibitor trials are short term. I still think the precautionary principle applies and we need to counsel on the risks of JAKs,” tweeted Aaron Drucker, MD, a dermatologist at Women’s College Hospital, and associate professor at the University of Toronto. “It is great to have these as options for our patients. But we need to be aware of the risks associated with this class of medications, counsel patients about them when we are informing them of the risks and benefits of treatment options, and wait for more data specific to this population to make even more informed decisions,” he told this news organization.
The meta-analysis examined both the risk of incident VTE in untreated patients with AD compared with non-AD patients, as well as the risk of VTE in AD patients treated with JAK inhibitors compared with those on either placebo or dupilumab. Four JAK inhibitors were studied: abrocitinib, baricitinib (under FDA review for AD), upadacitinib, and SHR0302 (in clinical trials).
Two studies (458,206 participants) found the overall incidence rate of VTE for patients with AD was 0.23 events per 100 patient-years. The risk was did not differ from that in non-AD patients (pooled hazard ratio [HR], 0.95; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.62-1.45).
Another 15 studies included 8,787 participants with AD and found no significant differences in the rates of VTE in AD patients treated with JAK inhibitors (0.05%) versus those treated with placebo or dupilumab (0.03%). However “with the increasing applications of JAK inhibitors in AD, more clinical data are needed to identify patients at high risk for VTE,” noted the authors.
“We need more, long-term data,” agreed Drucker, adding that a major issue is the short-term nature of AD trials to date (generally up to 16 weeks), which “don’t provide adequate reassurance.” He said although the FDA’s boxed warning was prompted by a trial in RA patients treated with tofacitinib (a less selective JAK inhibitor than those approved by the FDA for AD), and the same risks have not been demonstrated specifically for the JAK inhibitors used for a patients with AD, he still remains cautious.
While agreeing on the need for more long-term data, Andrew Blauvelt, MD, MBA, president of Oregon Medical Research Center, Portland, said that the new findings should “provide reassurance” to dermatologists and are “consonant with recent published meta-analyses reporting no increased VTE risk in patients with psoriasis, RA, or inflammatory bowel disease treated with JAK inhibitors” in Arthritis & Rheumatology, and Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
In an interview, Blauvelt said that safety profiles emerging for the newer JAK inhibitors, which block JAK 1/2, have been overshadowed by the older RA data for tofacitinib – which is a JAK 1/3 inhibitor, “despite emerging long-term, monotherapy, clinical study data for dermatologic diseases showing no or rare risks of developing severe adverse events outlined in the boxed warnings.”
Both Blauvelt and Drucker pointed out that people with RA tend to have more comorbidities than those with AD that would predispose them to adverse events. In fact, “approximately 75% of patients in the ORAL Surveillance study were also on concomitant methotrexate and/or prednisone, which can greatly confound safety results,” said Blauvelt.
The study authors did not report any disclosures. No funding source for the study was provided. Drucker has no relevant disclosures. Blauvelt has been a clinical study investigator in trials for AD treatments, including JAK inhibitors; his disclosures include serving as a speaker, scientific adviser, and/or clinical study investigator for multiple companies including AbbVie, Arcutis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, Incyte, Regeneron, Sanofi Genzyme, and UCB Pharma.
This story originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
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