The Curtain or The Box: Therapeutic Dilemmas

X Roblin et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2022; 28: 720-727. Swapping Versus Dose Optimization in Patients Losing Response to Adalimumab With Adequate Drug Levels

Many times, treatment decisions are like on “Let’s Make a Deal.” That is, should I stick with what I’ve got or should I try for something better & sometimes wind up with a goat. In this referenced article, patients were under maintenance therapy with adalimumab (ADA) monotherapy (40 mg every 14 days) and had experienced a secondary loss of response (LOR) despite trough levels > 4.9 μg/mL. In this nonrandomized prospective study, patients were either swapped to vedolizumab (VDZ) or optimized on adalimumab (ADA) treatment.

Key findings:

  • At 24 months, 11 out of 70 patients (16%) in the swap group discontinued treatment compared with 36 out of 61 (59%) patients in the optimization group (P < 0.001)
  • In the optimization group, treatment discontinuation was positively associated with baseline fecal calprotectin >500 μg/g (HR, 3.5)
  • In patients selected for optimization, 56% (34/61) remained on ADA at 1 year and 41% (25/61) at 2 years

In their discussion, the authors state “current guidelines recommend switching to another class of biologics in case of LOR to ADA with therapeutic drug levels.” However, the authors note that their therapeutic level cut-off of >4.9 mcg/mL is lower than the latest recommendations. In addition, in their conclusion, they note that due to limited biologic options, “ADA optimization strategy might be considered” in a subgroup.

My take: Despite better results in the patients that swapped to VDZ in this study, I think it is important to assure adequate drug levels before choosing a new drug class. For ADA, expert recommendations have suggested a level of 8-12 as therapeutic and to avoid discontinuation if ADA level is less than 10. In this study, more than 40% remained on ADA two years after LOR in those with dosing optimization.

Related blog post:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Panoramic View -Sandia Mountain, NM

Here’s Why Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Should Work

RC Ungaro et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2022; 28: 649-651. Impact of Thiopurine Exposure on Immunogenicity to Infliximab Is Negligible in the Setting of Elevated Infliximab Concentrations

Background: Whether proactive therapeutic drug monitoring (pTDM) is superior to reactive TDM (rTDM) is not entirely clear, though some studies have shown better outcomes with pTDM. Additionally, Colombel et al (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1525-32) showed that antidrug antibodies during combination therapy were detected only in those with the lowest quartile of infliximab trough levels; this suggests that optimized monotherapy should be similarly effective to combination therapy.

Methods: The authors retrospectively analyzed a commercial laboratory database (Prometheus) with 3970 patients and paired 6-thioguanine (6-TGN) levels with infliximab (IFX) and antibodies to infliximab (ATIs)

Key findings:

  • “Those with higher levels of IFX had negligible benefit from concomitant thiopurine treatment in preventing ATIs.”
  • ATIs were detected in 9.9% of all patients. IFX level of >5 mcg/mL were associated with a very low risk of ATI (OR 0.05). “Immunogenicity was negligible (<3%) in the presence of IFX concentrations greater than 5 mcg/mL.”
  • 6-TGN levels (>125) were associated with lower risk of ATI, OR 0.42; though, this effect had a significant impact, only for those with with IFX <5 mcg/mL.
  • The authors note the prospective OPTIMIZE study (NCT04835506) should help determine the effectiveness of pTDM.

My take: In patients with IFX levels >5 mcg/mL, there does not appear to be much benefit for most patients from the addition of a thiopurine; this may not be true for those who are switching to a 2nd anti-TNF agent due to antidrug antibodies. This study supports pTDM to assure adequate IFX levels.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

Favorite Posts of 2021

I am happy to say that this is the last nightcall that I will have this year!

Today, I’ve compiled some of my favorite posts from the past year. I started this blog a little more than 10 years ago. I am grateful for the encouragement/suggestions from many people to help make this blog better. Also, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

GI:

IBD:

LIVER:

Nutrition:

Other Topics:

Thanks to Jennifer

Expert Consensus: New Recommendations for Therapeutic Drug Monitoring

AS Cheifetz et al. Am J Gastroenterol 2021;116: 2014-2025. A Comprehensive Literature Review and Expert Consensus Statement on Therapeutic Drug Monitoring of Biologics in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (published online August 13, 2021)

Key recommendations:

  • The panel agreed that reactive TDM should be used for all biologics for both primary nonresponse and secondary loss of response
  • It was recommended that treatment discontinuation should not be considered for infliximab or adalimumab until a drug concentration of at least 10–15 mg/mL was achieved
  • Consensus was also achieved regarding the utility of proactive TDM for anti–tumor necrosis factor therapy. It was recommended to perform proactive TDM after induction and at least once during maintenance.
  • More data are needed with regard to proactive TDM for biologics other than anti-TNF agents
  • There are no differences in interpreting TDM between originator biologics and biosimilars
  • When considering switching within drug class in case of secondary loss of response to a first anti-TNF drug because of the development of antidrug antibodies, an immunomodulator should be added to a subsequent anti-TNF therapy
  • Low-titer antidrug antibodies can be overcome by treatment optimization (dose escalation, dose interval shortening, and/or addition of an immunomodulator)

My take: This article should help support the practice of proactive TDM and discourage stopping anti-TNF agents until an adequate therapeutic level is achieved.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

For the Next Insurance Appeal: Therapeutic Drug Monitoring in Adalimumab Treatment (Pediatrics) & Satire on Prior Authorizations

There is a lot of data supporting the use of therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) for anti-TNF agents. A recent study (MJ Kim et al. JPGN 2021; 72: 870-876. Therapeutic Drug Monitoring of Adalimumab During Long-term Follow-up in Paediatric Patients With Crohn Disease) adds to this data and supports increased adalimumab (ADL) dosing if below target values.

In this prospective study of 31 pediatric patients with Crohn’s disease, the authors found correlations between ADL values and the endpoints of clinical remission (CR) and mucosal healing (MH). The authors checked TLs at 4 months, 1, 2, and 3 years. Key findings:

  • The median trough levels (TLs) of ADL were higher in patients in CR (7.6 ± 3.5 μg/mL) than in patients with active disease (5.1 ± 2.2 μg/mL).
  • ADL TLs were significantly higher in patients who achieved MH than in those who did not (14.2 ± 7.6 vs 7.8 ± 5.2 μg/mL). 
  • The optimal cut-point for predicting MH at 1 year of ADL treatment was 8.18 μg/mL
  • MH was noted in 42% at 4 months and 55% at 1 yr; CR was noted in 90% at 4 months and 84% at 1 yr. ADL treatment was associated with positive effects on growth indicators as well.

The authors discuss TDM for anti-TNF therapy, noting that for infliximab, the AGA recommends values >5 mcg/mL and the ACG >7.5 mcg/mL. There are fewer studies of ADL TDM -prior studies have indicated goals of >5.8, >7.1, >8, and >8.1; thus, this study is in agreement with these prior studies.

My take: This study further supports the value of TDM; better drug levels correlate with better outcomes.

Related blog posts:

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas. The fort has reportedly 16 million bricks (I didn’t confirm this figure).

More satireOn Prior Authorizations:

Real-World Experience with Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A recent large retrospective pediatric study provides further evidence that therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) results in better clinical outcomes. One of my partners, Chelly Dykes, is a coauthor and leads our ImproveCareNow team.

JL Lyles et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2021; 27: 482-492. Effect of a Practice-wide Anti-TNF Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Program on Outcomes in Pediatric Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

This single center implemented a practice wide TDM approach in 2014. This study compared a historical pre-TDM group (n=108) to the TDM group (n=206). The primary outcome was sustained clinical remission (SCR22-52), defined as physician global assessment (PGA) of inactive from 22 to 52 weeks and off corticosteroids at 52 weeks. Key findings:

  • The SCR22-52 was achieved in 42% of pre-TDM and 59% of TDM patients (risk difference, 17.6%; 95% CI, 5.4–29%; P = 0.004)
  • The TDM group had an increased adjusted odds of achieving SCR22-52 (odds ratio, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.27–3.26; P = 0.003)
  • The adjusted risk of developing high titer antidrug antibodies (ADAs) was lower in the post-TDM group (hazard ratio, 0.18; 95% CI, 0.09–0.35; P < 0.001)
  • The SCBR22-52 (which was defined by normal CRP along with SCR22-52) was 24.7% in pre-TDM and 42.7% in the TDM group
  • The authors did not identify a significantly higher rate of anti-TNF cessation in either group
  • Only 12% of patients in their practice were receiving combination therapy

In the discussion, the authors review three pivotal studies which also support proactive TDM: TAXIT, TAILORIX, and PAILOT.

My take: While this was an observational study with historical controls, the findings are convincing that proactive TDM is helpful, particularly in patients who are not receiving combination therapy.

Related blog posts:

March 31, 2021

Adjustment of azathioprine dose in NUDT15 intermediate metabolizers, COVID-19 in Georgia & COVID-19 Phase 1 Vaccine Study

LA Jackson et al. NEJM 2020; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2022483. Link:  An mRNA Vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 — Preliminary Report  The mRNA-1273 vaccine induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in all participants (n=45), and no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified.

______________________________________________________________________

COVID-19 in Georgia (Data from 7/13/20):


B Kang et al. AP&T 2020; https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.15810. Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference. Full text: Adjustment of azathioprine dose should be based on a lower 6‐TGN target level to avoid leucopenia in NUDT15 intermediate metabolizers

Background: “In addition to TPMT polymorphisms, a recent genome‐wide association study reported that a missense variant of nudix hydrolase 15 (NUDT15 ), which encodes a novel thiopurine‐metabolizing enzyme, was strongly associated with thiopurine‐induced leucopenia especially in Asians”

Key findings:

  • Among the 167 pediatric patients included, leucopenia was observed in 16% (19/119), 44% (20/45) and 100% (3/3) of the NUDT15 normal, intermediate and poor metabolizers respectively ( < 0.001)
  • There was a positive association between 6‐TGN levels and leucopenia among the NUDT15 intermediate/TPMT normal metabolizers
  • In order to reduce the development of thiopurine‐induced leucopenia (<15%) in NUDT15 intermediate metabolizers, adjustment of azathioprine doses should be based on a lower 6‐TGN target level (<167.1 pmol/8 × 108 RBC)

Limitations: single-center, retrospective study and possible selection bias

My take: While 6-TGN levels between 235-400 are typically considered therapeutic, individuals with intermediate metabolism are at increased risk for leukopenia and may respond at lower levels.  This study indicates that careful dosing and close monitoring is needed for NUDT15 intermediate metabolizers

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition

Expert Guidance on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Part 2)

A recent issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology focused solely on the clinical features and management of inflammatory bowel disease. Even for those with expertise in IBD, there is a lot of useful information and concise reviews of what is known.

Here are some of my notes from this issue (part 2)

S Danese et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1280-90. Positioning Therapies in Ulcerative Colitis

This is a good article but recent AGA publications are probably better –there are some links below. One statement that was interesting: “the safety profile of vedolizumab seems even better than placebo in terms of risk of serious” adverse events. The authors favored infliximab in combination with azathioprine in those needing biologic therapy with moderate-severe UC.

Related blog posts:

S Vermeire et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1291-9. How, When, and for Whom Should We Perform Therapeutic Drug Monitoring?

“Although reactive TDM, testing at time of loss of response, is widely accepted in practice, especially for anti–tumor necrosis factor antibodies, there are less data for the other monoclonal antibodies belonging to other classes. Besides reactive testing, there is a movement toward proactively adjusting biologic dosing to prevent loss of response, in keeping with the tight control philosophy of inflammatory bowel disease care.” The authors favor proactive monitoring: “we are now beginning to see with well-powered proactive TDM studies” that proactive monitoring can maximize the benefits of TDM with “the potential to maximize durability of biologics and improve the outcomes of IBD patients.”

Related blog posts:

PS Dulai et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1300-8. How Do We Treat Inflammatory Bowel Diseases to Aim For Endoscopic Remission?

The initial part of this article reviews treatment targets -resolution of symptoms and resolution of endoscopic damage. The algorithm provides the authors’ suggested approach:

  • At initiation of therapy, patients should have a full assessment.  In addition to ileocolonoscopy, for patients with CD, the authors recommend cross-sectional imaging.
  • After treatment initiation, the authors recommend biomarker assessment every 3 months.  Mucosal assessment can occur 6-9 months after treatment initiation.
  • For UC, the authors note that fecal calprotectin (FC) “appears to be more stratightforward, and a cutoff of 250 mcg/g can be used reliably across all scenarios to make treatment adjustments.”  Though, they recommend endoscopic confirmation prior to transition to a biologic or small molecule therapy.
  • For CD, the authors suggest making treatment adjustments in those with FC >250 mcg/g and in those with lower values, followup colonoscopy is recommended.
  • The authors note that in the post-operative setting with CD, mucosal inflammation precedes symptomatic activity and “waiting for symptoms to emerge may unnecessary allow for disease progression.”
  • The authors suggest that tighter disease control will reduce disease-related complications, while acknowledging a lack of prospective clinical trials.
  • One thorny issue: :”For CD: it remains unclear what degree of residual mucosal healing is acceptable to impact important outcomes such as CD-related complications, hospitalizations, and surgeries.”

Related blog posts:

M Allocca et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1309-23. Use of Cross-Sectional Imaging for Tight Monitoring of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

“Computed tomography is limited by the use of radiation, while the use of magnetic resonance enterography (MRE) is limited by its cost and access. There is growing interest in bowel ultrasound that represents a cost-effective, noninvasive, and well-tolerated modality in clinical practice, but it is operator dependent… Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is a MR imaging technique that increasingly is used in both IBD and non-IBD conditions and has been shown to be a valuable and accurate tool for assessing and monitoring IBD activity.

L Beaugerie et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1324-35. Predicting, Preventing, and Managing Treatment-Related Complications in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

The first part of this article reviews potential adverse effects from the medications used for IBD treatment, noting in Table 1 that there are not complications to monitor for with both vedolizumab and ustekinumab.

The article reviews infections, vaccination strategies and issues related to malignancy Some of the recommendations:

  • vaccine against pneumococcus should be given before patients begin immunosuppressive therapy
  • physicians should consider giving patients live vaccines against herpes zoster (in adults) before they begin immunosuppressive therapy or a recombinant vaccine, when available, at any time point during treatment
  • sun protection and skin surveillance from the time of diagnosis are recommended
  • despite concerns about therapy, the authors note that “the extensive use of immunosuppressive therapy leads to a substantial decrease in the incidence of IBD complications, with a globally favorable benefit-risk ratio, which can be optimized further thanks to a good degree of awareness and knowledge of drug complications.”

It is interesting that this article (and the entire issue) does not address mental health concerns related to the diagnosis of IBD.  This likely creates more morbidity and complications than most of the other issues that are discussed.

Above: Why did the picture go to jail? Because it was framed.

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

IBD Updates December 2019

SR Gupta et al. JPGN 2019; 69: 544-50.  This article reports on preliminary experience in 54 children who received external (non-hospital) infliximab infusions. The average age was 17.6 years. The authors noted no serious safety concerns.  Prior to arranging these infusions, the authors insisted on the following:

  • Infusion services had to guarantee pediatric trained nurses with PALS certification
  • Emergency medications had to be available
  • A plan for emergency communication was arranged
  • Postinfusion communication would occur with each infusion

BN Limketkai et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2019; 25: 1828-37.  This study, using Truven Health MarketScan database (2007-16) reviewed proactive or reactive mucosal monitoring after biologic initiation in IBD.  Early (< 6 months) proactive monitoring (88% endoscopy-based) was performed in 11% (n=2195/19,899) of patients with Crohn’s and 12.8% (925/7247) of patients with ulcerative colitis.

  • “Early proactive monitoring was associated with a reduction in disease-related complications for CD (aHR 0.90) and UC (aHR 0.87) and predominantly driven by a reduction in corticosteroid use.”
  • Another interesting finding was that ~40% of patients had biologic therapy initiated without assessment of mucosal disease activity within 6 months.
  • The authors state that disease monitoring is typically more useful in CD than UC because with the latter, cessation of bleeding and diarrhea appear to be adequate surrogates.
  • This study was not able to assess whether a biomarker like fecal calprotectin would be suitable due to its low utilization.

RZ Cohen, BT Schoen, S Kugathasan, CG Sauer. JPGN 2019; 69: 551-6. In this chart review, the authors identified anti-drug antibodies (ADA) in 24.8% (n=58) of patients undergoing therapeutic drug monitoring (n=234) with both infliximab and adalimumab.  54% of this group had antibody suppression with dose optimization. Of note, 37 patients had detectable ADA at time of initial drug monitoring. Dose optimization was 10 mg/kg every 4 weeks with infliximab or 40 mg weekly with adalimumab. Patients who were switched to a second anti-TNF agent (n=23) were not more likely to develop ADA to the second agent (small sample size). Also, the authors caution that in the five patients with ADA levels (>10 U/mL), dose optimization failed and patients required a therapeutic switch. My take: This study provides some useful information about the frequency of ADA.  My view is that the actual drug level is more critical than the presence of ADA; though, the presence of high ADA often precludes the ability to deliver a therapeutic drug level.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

CCFA: Updates in IBD Conference (part 1)

My notes from a recent Georgia Chapter of CCFA’s conference. There could be errors of omission, transcription and/or errors in context based on my understanding.

Adam Cheifetz, MD Harvard School of Medicine

Optimizing IBD Treatments

  • Earlier treatment with effective therapies
  • Utilizing therapeutic drug monitoring

Goals are clinical and endoscopic remission

  • Imaging if not visible on endoscopy
  • Biomarker remission -adjunctive goal
  • Symptoms and endoscopy do not have good correlation in Crohn’s disease
  • Endoscopic healing associated with better outcomes
  • Treatment –>assessment –> adjust treatment if goal is not met

Biologic Agents:

  • First agent works best; TNF-exposed patients do not respond as well as TNF-naive patients to subsequent biologic
  • High rate of secondary loss of response

Therapeutic Drug Monitoring:

  • Combination therapy in Sonic study was associated with higher infliximab levels. It appears that optimized monotherapy is as effective as combination therapy (Colombel study).
  • Fistula treatment requires higher biologic levels
  • Lower biologic drug levels associated with development of antidrug antibodies
  • Proactive monitoring –recommended
  • Both infliximab and adalimumab are frequently underdosed, especially in pediatrics –>another reason for proactive monitoring
  • If sicker patients, consider checking TDM at week 10; less sick patients, reasonable to consider TDM at week 14

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.