THE RECENT FAILURE OF TWO XARELTO STUDIES STOPPED BAYER AND JOHNSON & JOHNSON ATTEMPTS TO INCREASE BLOOD THINNER MARKET-SHARE
By Mark A. York (August 28, 2018)
Two recent Xarelto studies fail to show additional benefits when Bayer and Johnson & Johnson’s attempted to expand the patient group for their heart drug Xarelto.
The recent Xarelto blood thinner “Commander HF” study, (see https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/Bayer/J&J (Commander AF Study), could not show any statistical improvements in helping heart failure patients after an acute decline in their condition, results from the so-called study showed on Monday. The primary study goal of reduction in the risk of death, heart attack and stroke was unsuccessful.
A second Bayer/J&J study known as “Mariner” also failed to produce clear evidence that Xarelto is able to reduced the rate of blood clots in certain high-risk patients after a hospital release.
Bayer earned $3.84 billion in sales of Xarelto revenues last year, primarily from stroke prevention in the elderly, with projected annual sales to rise above $5 billion in 2019 and beyond.
Bayer retains marketing rights for Xarelto outside the United States while partner J&J sells Xarelto in the U.S., with Bayer being eligible for royalties on U.S. sales of 20 to 30 percent.
Both Bayer and J&J’s Janssen R&D are facing thousands of lawsuits across the country over failure to warn and disclose the significant dangers of being prescribed Xarelto and the inability to stop the bleeding as there hasn’t been an antidote for Xarelto until 2018.
XARELTO MDL 2804 AND PHILADELPHIA COMPLEX LITIGATION DOCKET
Between the Xarelto MDL 2804 federal docket of 25,000 plus and the 1,700 in Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas there seems to be significant concern for the use of Xarelto when a comparison is made to the pre-Xarelto blood thinners i.e. Coumadin and Warfarin which required additional monitoring, are not known as a drug that can kill you.
HOW XARELTO WAS APPROVED BY THE FDA
Xarelto was first approved by the FDA July 2011, representing a major advancement in blood thinning (anticoagulant) medication according to Bayer and Johnson & Johnson, developed to prevent serious conditions that sometimes arise after surgeries (such as artificial hip and knee surgeries). As an anticoagulant, it was intended to prevent pulmonary embolism (PE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and strokes. Xarelto was also intended to help those patients with atrial fibrillation, a group of people more vulnerable to PE, DVT, and stroke after surgery. Eventually, the FDA expanded approval of Xarelto to treat all patients with PE, DVT and atrial fibrillation.
More than one study has shown Xarelto can cause a higher rate of internal bleeding, than other anticoagulant drugs and there is no available “antidote” for stopping internal bleeding in patients taking Xarelto. With warfarin, vitamin K has been shown to stop bleeding, but there is no vitamin K “parallel” for people taking Xarelto. For Xarelto, it can take 24 hours for a dose to get out of the body. That means that if internal bleeding starts, the patient may simply have to wait it out and hope it stops on its own.
MAYO CLINIC XARELTO STUDY RESULTS NOT POSITIVE
In the journal Gastroenterology, a team of physicians and researchers from the Mayo Clinic studied thousands of patients who took Xarelto (rivaroxaban), Pradaxa (dabigatran), and Eliquis (apixaban). The goal was to figure out which of these three anticoagulant drugs had “the most favorable GI safety profile,” which is medical-research-speak for “which one of these drugs is least likely to hurt patients.”
This is how the study worked: The researchers studied health insurance administrative claims information on thousands of patients between October 1, 2010 and February 28, 2015. These patients had atrial fibrillation, or Afib, which is a heart arrhythmia, a quivering or irregular heartbeat. Afib can lead to serious health problems such as stroke, blood clots, heart failure and other health complications. The researchers looked at the incidents of gastrointestinal bleeding among the thousands of patients who took Xarelto or Pradaxa or Eliquis.
MAYO STUDY SHOWS NEGATIVE RESULTS
Patients who took Xarelto had a higher incidence of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding patients who took Pradaxa or Eliquis. The statistics show that patients taking Xarelto may have a 20% greater risk of internal bleeding than with those taking Pradaxa or Eliquis, with the rates of GI bleeding increased in patients over seventy-five (75) years old. Turns out, Eliquis “had the most favorable GI safety profile among all age-groups.” While clearly showing Xarelto, unfortunately, had the “least favorable” safety profile among the three prescription anticoagulant drugs.
FDA Investigation of Xarelto Trials
The approval history for Xarelto was actually pretty controversial. FDA reviewers originally said that they recommended against approval, then there was an FDA advisory committee (independent group of key opinion leaders) and they voted in favor, so the FDA approved the drug. Their concern was with how the Phase III trials were run and whether Xarelto had really proved its efficacy. The tests compared patients on warfarin to patients on Xarelto, but the patients on the warfarin run had poor TTR. That means the patients weren’t well controlled on warfarin to begin with, which skews the data in favor of Xarelto.
During the approval process, Xarelto actually wanted a superiority label, which would say that the drug was better than warfarin and other blood thinners. Because of the concerns with the Phase III data, the FDA only gave them a non-inferior label, which says they’re essentially the same in terms of effectiveness.
One of the clinical trials that played a key role in its approval for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation is now under investigation by the FDA. This trial compared Xarelto’s performance to warfarin’s, but it used a device called INRatio to test the warfarin patients.
The INRatio device was the subject of two FDA warning letters about inaccurate readings just as the trial was starting in 2005 and 2006. In 2014, the device was recalled. The use of the INRatio device may have skewed the results with inaccurate readings, making Xarelto look better in comparison with warfarin.
The FDA’s medical experts originally recommended against improving the drug due to concerns about its efficacy. They found that Xarelto was not as effective as warfarin. However, a review board eventually approved the drug over the objections.
The FDA has issued a number of warnings about Xarelto and has required the makers of the drug to change its labeling multiple times. Specifically, the FDA warned about the risks of uncontrolled bleeding. It also added a black-box warning, its most serious kind of warning, about the increased risk of stroke when patients prematurely stop taking Xarelto and about the increased risk for swelling and damage associated with the use of epidural anesthesia while taking Xarelto.
The makers of Xarelto recently applied to the FDA to expand the approved uses of the drug to include treatment for acute coronary syndrome (ACS). For the third time, the FDA unanimously denied the expansion. Johnson & Johnson and Bayer are expected to continue to apply for approval due to the high value of that market. More than 1 million patients are hospitalized with ACS each year. That offers serious potential for growth for Xarelto, which already earns almost $1 billion in sales annually.
Johnson & Johnson also is claiming that Xarelto helps patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) in reducing their heart attack and blood clot risks.
WHAT THE VETERANS ADMINISTRATION SAYS ON XARELTO USE
“The good news is you now have an alternative to warfarin … The bad news is you can kill a patient as easily with the new drug as you could with the old drug.”Dr. Alan Jacobson, Director of anti-coagulation services at the VA in Loma Linda, Calif.
The makers of Xarelto say it takes time for doctors to get up to speed on new types of treatments and how to best administer them outside the controls of clinical trials.
“This is a shift in medical practice,” said Dr. John Smith, senior vice president for clinical development at Boehringer. “Individual physicians have to determine what the follow-up plan will be, to use common medical-sense judgment.”
XARELTO MAKERS SAY NO FOLLW-UP CARE REQUIRED
Dr. Peter Wildgoose, a senior director of clinical development at J&J, said the company has not provided special advice on follow-up care for patients on Xarelto.
“There’s nothing more than for any other drug that people regularly take,” he said, adding that most atrial fibrillation patients probably see their doctors on a regular basis. “These drugs have been tested long term, for several years at a time, with very good outcomes.”
Johnson & Johnson officials stressed there was far less evidence in trials of brain bleeding – the most worrisome side effect of anti-coagulants – in patients taking Pradaxa and Xarelto than those taking warfarin.
WAS XARELTO EVEN NEEDED?
Even though warfarin (Coumadin) has been the standard in anticoagulant (blood thinner) drugs for more than 50 years, it lacked perfection, making way for a new generation of blood thinners, including Xarelto. In clinical studies, Xarelto was shown to be more effective than warfarin in treating patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) who are at an increased risk for stroke. And while Xarelto had less cranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) incidents than warfarin, it was shown to have a similar overall number of bleeding incidences when compared to the number of bleeding events in patients taking warfarin.
Despite this finding, and – until recently – its lack of antidote (reversal agent) for serious bleeding, Xarelto rose to popularity, making up a significant portion of the billion-dollar anticoagulant drug industry in the United States. Even after an investigation into into the clinical trial ROCKET-AF study, upon which its U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval hinged, the drug continues to be prescribed by doctors to patients with AF and as a prophylaxis for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can lead to pulmonary embolism (PE) after total hip and knee replacement surgeries.
But as more evidence surfaced regarding the drug risks for patients taking Xarelto, including an increased risk of wound complications following surgical procedures, severe bleeding with no easily available antidote to stop its serious consequences, as well as reports of platelet deficiencies, hepatitis and Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) (a severe skin reaction), some heart doctors are becoming a bit more cautious with the blood thinner.
Xarelto and Internal Bleeding?
Janssen and parent company Johnson & Johnson market its anticoagulant drug Xarelto as a safe and more convenient choice in blood thinners compared to warfarin. But pre-market clinical studies and post-marketing reports have shown that taking Xarelto leaves many patients vulnerable to internal bleeding that can result in death for some users.
In a 2017 annual report issued by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), it was stated that oral anticoagulant drugs, including Xarelto (rivaroxaban), showed “unacceptably high risks,” according to two government data sources, the FAERS adverse events reports for 2016 and a new systematic study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
XARELTO ACCOUNTS FOR 75 PERCENT OF ALL AE’s IN ANTI-COAGULANTS
Of the 22,000 reports of serious injuries resulting from anticoagulant drugs, Xarelto accounted for 15,043 cases alone, the FDA said.
“According to an analysis of 2016 FDA adverse event data conducted by the ISMP, anticoagulant (blood thinner) drugs accounted for nearly 22,000 reports of serious injuries in the United States, led by Xarelto, which accounted for 15,043 cases alone. These numbers also included 3,018 reported deaths, with most injuries being the result of hemorrhages, making bleeding one of the most adverse events.”
Gastrointestinal hemorrhages made up the MOST INJURIES, followed by cerebral hemorrhages. From early testing, hemorrhage has always been an apparent increased risk associated with lowering the risk of strokes from blood clots.
In late 2016, the CDC released a separate study that found that “anticoagulant drugs accounted for more emergency department visits for outpatient adverse effects than any other class of drugs currently in therapeutic use, including opioids (non-abuse visits), antibiotics and diabetes drugs.” Most of these adverse events were severe, with nearly 50 percent requiring a hospital stay. The ISMP estimated in its QuarterWatch report that just over 6 percent of patients using anticoagulants for one year will need to visit the emergency room, with about half of those patients requiring hospitalization. That is a major number of injuries that can be attributed to a drug that is advertised as life saving and designed to prevent injuries.
Overall, the CDC found in its systematic study that the FDA’s FAERS voluntary reporting underestimates anticoagulant drug-related injuries. The CDC discovered that approximately 228,600 emergency department visits occur each year due to the use of blood thinner drugs, including Xarelto, which is 10 times more than the FAERS total number of voluntary reports.
The Symptoms of Internal Bleeding
At its onset, unless it’s a severe hemorrhage, internal bleeding may not cause any symptoms apparent to the patient taking Xarelto. However, dependent on where the bleed is located in the body, the patient will soon begin exhibiting signs and symptoms that will be their indication to seek immediate medical attention. Patients who are in poor health or are over the age of 64 and the targeted audience seem more likely to suffer serious, potentially life-threatening bleeding complications.
The end result of Bayer and J&J’s attempts to secure the blood thinner market may continue unabated until the more than 25,000 lawsuits over the injuries and deaths that are affiliated with taking Xarelto will force both companies to come to either the settlement table or begin trying the Xarelto MDL 2592 lawsuits being remanded back to original courts for trials and blocks of 1200 cases at a time. Xarelto MDL Judge Eldon Fallon, USDC Eastern District of Louisiana has already started the remand process for 23,000 cases pending in his federal court, due to the lack of progress in settlements and cooperation by Bayer and Johnson & Johnson.