(Reuters)—Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.’s experimental drug to treat psoriasis carries a potential risk of suicide that is challenging to assess due to limited data, a preliminary review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday.
The review comes two days ahead of a meeting of outside experts who will advise the FDA on whether the drug should be approved. The agency is not obliged to follow the advice of its advisory panels but typically does so.
In clinical trials of the drug, brodalumab, there were six suicides across all programs: four in psoriasis studies, one in a rheumatoid arthritis study and one in a psoriatic arthritis study. [Editor’s note: The Rheumatologist first reported on this danger in August 2015. Read Dr. Simon Helfgott’s editorial, “Can Systemic Inflammation Influence Mood?“]
“We have uncertainty about whether the signal for completed suicide is a risk related to brodalumab treatment,” FDA reviewers said. “From the available data, we cannot conclude whether or not suicide is a drug-related risk.”
If approved, brodalumab has the potential to be used in a large number of patients in the United States and likely prescribed by a doctor that may not be familiar with screening for and diagnosing suicidal thinking and behavior, the reviewers said.
There are several risk management options that could provide some assurance that doctors and patients understand the safe use conditions of taking the drug.
“However, no risk management strategy will completely eliminate the risk” they said.