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Safety Communication: Xeljanz, Xeljanz XR (tofacitinib) Safety Trial Finds Increased Risk of Blood Clots in the Lungs and Death with Higher Dose in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Audience: Patient, Health Professional, Pharmacy, Rheumatology

ISSUE: FDA is alerting the public that a safety clinical trial found an increased risk of blood clots in the lungs and death when a 10 mg twice daily dose of tofacitinib (Xeljanz, Xeljanz XR) was used in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). FDA has not approved this 10 mg twice daily dose for RA; this dose is only approved in the dosing regimen for patients with ulcerative colitis

BACKGROUND: When FDA first approved tofacitinib, we required a clinical trial among patients with RA to evaluate the risk of heart-related events, cancer, and opportunistic infections with the medicine at two doses (10 mg twice daily and 5 mg twice daily) in combination with methotrexate in comparison to another drug called a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor. RA patients in the trial were required to be at least 50 years old and have at least one cardiovascular risk factor. During the most recent analysis of the trial, an external data safety monitoring committee found an increased occurrence of blood clots in the lungs and death in patients treated with tofacitinib 10 mg twice daily compared to patients treated with tofacitinib 5 mg twice daily or a TNF inhibitor.

RECOMMENDATION:  Health care professionals should follow the recommendations in the tofacitinib prescribing information for the specific condition they are treating. Monitor patients for the signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism, and advise them to seek medical attention immediately if they experience them.

Patients should not stop or change your dose of tofacitinib without first talking to your health care professional, as doing so may worsen your condition. Patients taking tofacitinib should seek medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms of a blood clot in your lungs or other unusual symptoms such as:

  • Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing   

  • Chest pain or pain in your back

  • Coughing up blood

  • Excessive sweating

  • Clammy or bluish colored skin

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

  • Complete and submit the report Online: www.fda.gov/MedWatch/report

  • Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178


[02/25/2019 - Drug Safety Communication - FDA]

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