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Vedolizumab Appears Effective in Chronic Pouchitis

Vedolizumab appears to be effective at reducing intestinal inflammation and inducing remission in patients who developed chronic pouchitis after undergoing ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) for ulcerative colitis, according to a phase 4 trial.

The incidence of modified Pouchitis Disease Activity Index (mPDAI)–defined remission after 14 weeks was 31% for vedolizumab, compared with 10% for placebo.

Simon Travis, DPhil

“Vedolizumab works in both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, so it appeared rational to test its efficacy in chronic, antibiotic-resistant pouchitis,” lead author Simon Travis, DPhil, professor of clinical gastroenterology at the University of Oxford’s Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology and Translational Gastroenterology Unit in the United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News.

“Vedolizumab works for antibiotic-resistant pouchitis,” he said. “It is the first advanced therapy licensed for chronic pouchitis in Europe and can be a game changer for patients who develop pouchitis after experiencing ulcerative colitis severe enough to need colectomy who might have thought that surgery would be the ultimate solution.”

The study was published online March 30 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Treating Chronic Pouchitis

About half of patients with ulcerative colitis who undergo restorative proctocolectomy with IPAA will develop pouchitis within 5 years, the authors write. Among those, about one fifth will have chronic pouchitis, with symptoms that last longer than 4 weeks. Symptoms include increased stool frequency, abdominal pain, fecal urgency, and impaired quality of life.

Typically, antibiotics are recommended as first-line treatment for acute pouchitis, but antibiotic resistance is common. Previous studies have suggested that tumor necrosis factor antagonists and the monoclonal antibodies vedolizumab and ustekinumab may be effective in pouchitis that is refractory to antibiotics.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved vedolizumab as a treatment for moderate to severe ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In early 2022, the European Commission approved vedolizumab for adult patients with moderate to severe active chronic pouchitis who had undergone proctocolectomy with IPAA and had an inadequate response to antibiotic therapy. The approval was based on results from the EARNEST trial.

As part of the EARNEST trial, Travis and colleagues at 31 sites in North America and Europe conducted a phase 4, double-blind, randomized trial to evaluate vedolizumab for chronic pouchitis after IPAA for ulcerative colitis.

Between October 2016 and March 2020, researchers identified 102 adult patients who met the study criteria. They were eligible if they had undergone proctocolectomy at least 1 year before screening and had active chronic pouchitis, which was defined by an mPDAI score of 5 or more and a minimum subscore of 2 on the endoscopic domain.

After a 28-day screening period, patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive 300 mg of intravenous vedolizumab or placebo on day 1 and at weeks 2, 6, 14, 22, and 30. All patients also received 500 mg of oral ciprofloxacin twice daily from weeks 1-4. Additional courses of antibiotics were allowed, as needed, for pouchitis flares that occurred after week 14.

The primary endpoint was mPDAI-defined remission, or an mPDAI score of 4 or less and a reduction of 2 or more points on the 12-point scale at week 14.

Other endpoints included mPDAI-defined remission at week 34, mPDAI-defined response (a reduction of 2 or more points) at weeks 14 and 34, and PDAI-defined remission (a PDAI score of 6 or less and a reduction of 3 or more points on the 18-point scale) at weeks 14 and 34. The mPDAI is based on clinical symptoms and endoscopic findings, whereas the PDAI is based on clinical symptoms, endoscopic findings, and histologic findings.

Overall, 36 patients (71%) in the vedolizumab group and 32 patients (63%) in the placebo group completed treatment and received all infusions through week 30. Eight patients in each group discontinued vedolizumab or placebo owing to a lack of efficacy. Demographic and clinical characteristics were similar in the two groups — about 84% of the patients were White, and the majority were men.

At the 14-week mark, 16 of 51 patients (31%) in the vedolizumab group and five of 51 patients (10%) in the placebo group achieved mPDAI-defined remission (a 21–percentage point difference; 95% CI, 5-38; P = .01). At week 34, 35% of the vedolizumab group and 18% of the placebo group reached remission. A post hoc analysis found that a high percentage of patients in the vedolizumab group reached remission regardless of whether concomitant antibiotics were used before week 14 or 34.

“Concomitant antibiotic use after week 4 was reported in a higher percentage of patients in the vedolizumab group than in the placebo group, a finding that was unexpected,” the authors write. “However, the use of additional antibiotics was not considered to be a treatment failure because antibiotics are the current standard of care for chronic pouchitis.”

Additional Findings

Vedolizumab showed major differences in the other endpoints as well. The percentage of patients with PDAI-defined remission was 35% in the vedolizumab group vs 10% in the placebo group at week 14, and 37% vs 18% at week 34.

The percentage of patients with mPDAI-defined response at week 14 was 63% among the vedolizumab group and 33% among the placebo group. By week 34, the between-group difference was 51% vs 29%.

Vedolizumab also showed greater changes in total PDAI scores, including endoscopic and histologic subscores, as well as remission and response defined by the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire (IBDQ). However, there were no significant differences in changes from baseline for the IBDQ or the Cleveland Global Quality of Life (CGQL) score.

The vedolizumab group had a higher percentage of patients with sustained mPDAI-defined remission (difference, 22 percentage points; 95% CI, 6 to 37) and sustained PDAI-defined remission (difference, 23 percentage points; 95% CI, 8 to 39).

Adverse events were reported in 47 patients (92%) in the vedolizumab group and 44 patients (86%) in the placebo group. Pouchitis was reported as an adverse event in 24 patients (47%) in the vedolizumab group and 20 patients (39%) in the placebo group. More patients in the vedolizumab group also reported upper respiratory tract infections and headaches.

Serious adverse events occurred in three patients (6%) in the vedolizumab group and four patients (8%) in the placebo group. One adverse event led to discontinuation of vedolizumab, and no serious adverse events were related to vedolizumab or led to discontinuation of vedolizumab.

‘Landmark Study’

“This is a landmark study that shows us that a biologic that we have used for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis may also be used to treat chronic pouchitis. This is a large unmet need for our patients and an important advancement for the field,” Miguel Regueiro, MD, chair of the Digestive Disease and Surgery Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, told Medscape Medical News.

Miguel Regueiro, MD

The Cleveland Clinic has one of the highest referrals rates in the country for IPAA, noted Regueiro, who wasn’t involved with this study. Colleagues are currently conducting studies to determine who may develop pouchitis and understand why certain patients develop pouchitis after the procedure, he said.

One question the EARNEST trial leaves unanswered is whether vedolizumab will be required as a sustained medicine to control pouchitis or could be stopped at some point, he said. “My sense is that, as is the case with any IBD, chronic treatment will be required,” he added.

The higher rate of ciprofloxacin use among patients who received vedolizumab is interesting, Regueiro said.

“[The researchers] note that ciprofloxacin was used for symptoms and do not know if there was active inflammation. It’s possible that bacterial overgrowth caused symptoms and the antibiotic treated that, and in a study this small, it is difficult to say anything more,” he said.

The study was sponsored by Takeda, the manufacturer of vedolizumab. Several authors reported speaking fees and consultant roles for numerous pharmaceutical companies, including Takeda. Three of the authors are employees of Takeda. Regueiro reported no relevant disclosures.

N Engl J Med. Published online March 30, 2023. Abstract

Carolyn Crist is a health and medical journalist who reports on the latest studies for Medscape, MDedge, and WebMD.

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