Included as part of the "PRECAUTIONS" Section
There were more deaths reported with BENLYSTA than with placebo during the controlled period of the intravenous clinical trials. Out of 2,133 patients in 3 clinical trials, a total of 14 deaths occurred during the placebo-controlled, double-blind treatment periods: 3/675 (0.4%), 5/673 (0.7%), 0/111 (0%), and 6/674 (0.9%) deaths in the groups receiving placebo, BENLYSTA 1 mg/kg, BENLYSTA 4 mg/kg, and BENLYSTA 10 mg/kg, respectively. No single cause of death predominated. Etiologies included infection, cardiovascular disease, and suicide.
In the controlled trial of BENLYSTA administered subcutaneously (N = 836), a total of 5 deaths occurred during the placebo-controlled, double-blind treatment period (0.7% [2/280] of patients receiving placebo and 0.5% [3/556] of patients receiving BENLYSTA). Infection was the most common cause of death.
Serious and sometimes fatal infections have been reported in patients receiving immunosuppressive agents, including BENLYSTA. Physicians should exercise caution when considering the use of BENLYSTA in patients with severe or chronic infections. Consider interrupting therapy with BENLYSTA in patients who develop a new infection while undergoing treatment with BENLYSTA and monitor these patients closely.
In the controlled clinical trials of BENLYSTA administered intravenously, the overall incidence of infections was 71% in patients treated with BENLYSTA compared with 67% in patients who received placebo. The most frequent infections (>5% of patients receiving BENLYSTA) were upper respiratory tract infection, urinary tract infection, nasopharyngitis, sinusitis, bronchitis, and
influenza. Serious infections occurred in 6.0% of patients treated with BENLYSTA and in 5.2% of patients who received placebo. The most frequent serious infections included pneumonia, urinary tract infection, cellulitis, and bronchitis. Infections leading to discontinuation of treatment occurred in 0.7% of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 1.0% of patients receiving placebo. Infections resulting in death occurred in 0.3% (4/1,458) of patients treated with
BENLYSTA and in 0.1% (1/675) of patients receiving placebo.
In the controlled trial of BENLYSTA administered subcutaneously (N = 836), the overall incidence of infections was 55% in patients treated with BENLYSTA compared with 57% in patients who received placebo (serious infections: 4.1% with BENLYSTA and 5.4% with placebo). The most commonly reported infections with BENLYSTA administered subcutaneously were similar to those reported with BENLYSTA administered intravenously.
Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML)
Cases of JC virus-associated PML resulting in neurological deficits, including fatal cases, have been reported in patients with SLE receiving immunosuppressants, including BENLYSTA. Risk factors for PML include treatment with immunosuppressant therapies and impairment of immune function. Consider the diagnosis of PML in any patient presenting with new-onset or deteriorating neurological signs and symptoms and consult with a neurologist or other appropriate specialist as clinically indicated. In patients with confirmed PML, consider stopping immunosuppressant therapy, including BENLYSTA.
Hypersensitivity Reactions, Including Anaphylaxis
Acute hypersensitivity reactions, including anaphylaxis and death, have been reported in association with BENLYSTA. These events generally occurred within hours of the infusion; however, they may occur later. Non-acute hypersensitivity reactions including rash, nausea, fatigue, myalgia, headache, and facial edema, have been reported and typically occurred up to a week following the most recent infusion. Hypersensitivity, including serious reactions, has occurred in patients who have previously tolerated infusions of BENLYSTA. Limited data suggest that patients with a history of multiple drug allergies or significant hypersensitivity may be at increased risk.
In the controlled clinical trials of BENLYSTA administered intravenously, hypersensitivity reactions (occurring on the same day of infusion) were reported in 13% (191/1,458) of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 11% (76/675) of patients receiving placebo. Anaphylaxis was observed in 0.6% (9/1,458) of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 0.4% (3/675) of patients receiving placebo. Manifestations included hypotension, angioedema, urticaria or other rash, pruritus, and dyspnea. Due to overlap in signs and symptoms, it was not possible to distinguish between hypersensitivity reactions and infusion reactions in all cases [see Infusion Reactions]. Some patients (13%) received premedication, which may have mitigated or masked a hypersensitivity response; however, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether premedication diminishes the frequency or severity of hypersensitivity reactions.
BENLYSTA for intravenous use should be administered by healthcare providers prepared to manage anaphylaxis. In the event of a serious reaction, administration of BENLYSTA must be discontinued immediately and appropriate medical therapy administered. Patients should be monitored during and for an appropriate period of time after intravenous administration of BENLYSTA.
In the controlled trial of BENLYSTA administered subcutaneously (N = 836), systemic hypersensitivity reactions were similar to those observed in the intravenous clinical trials.
Patients receiving BENLYSTA should be informed of the signs and symptoms of hypersensitivity reactions and be instructed to seek immediate medical care should a reaction occur.
In the controlled clinical trials of BENLYSTA administered intravenously, adverse events associated with the infusion (occurring on the same day of the infusion) were reported in 17% (251/1,458) of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 15% (99/675) of patients receiving placebo. Serious infusion reactions (excluding hypersensitivity reactions) were reported in 0.5% of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 0.4% of patients receiving placebo and included bradycardia, myalgia, headache, rash, urticaria, and hypotension. The most common infusion reactions (≥3% of patients receiving BENLYSTA) were headache, nausea, and skin reactions. Due to overlap in signs and symptoms, it was not possible to distinguish between hypersensitivity reactions and infusion reactions in all cases [see Hypersensitivity Reactions, Including Anaphylaxis]. Some patients (13%) received premedication, which may have mitigated or masked an infusion reaction; however, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether premedication diminishes the frequency or severity of infusion reactions [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].
BENLYSTA for intravenous use should be administered by healthcare providers prepared to manage infusion reactions. The infusion rate may be slowed or interrupted if the patient develops an infusion reaction. Healthcare providers should be aware of the risk of hypersensitivity reactions, which may present as infusion reactions, and monitor patients closely.
In the controlled clinical trials of BENLYSTA administered intravenously, psychiatric events were reported more frequently with BENLYSTA (16%) than with placebo (12%), related primarily to depression-related events (6.3% BENLYSTA and 4.7% placebo), insomnia (6.0% BENLYSTA and 5.3% placebo), and anxiety (3.9% BENLYSTA and 2.8% placebo). Serious psychiatric events were reported in 0.8% of patients receiving BENLYSTA (0.6% and 1.2% with 1 and 10 mg/kg, respectively) and 0.4% of patients receiving placebo. Serious depression was reported in 0.4% (6/1,458) of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 0.1% (1/675) of patients receiving placebo. Two suicides (0.1%) were reported in patients receiving BENLYSTA.
In the controlled trial of BENLYSTA administered subcutaneously (N = 836), psychiatric events were reported in 6% of patients treated with BENLYSTA and in 11% of patients who received placebo. Depression-related events were reported in 2.7% of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 3.6% of patients receiving placebo. Serious psychiatric events were reported in 0.2% of patients receiving BENLYSTA and in no patients receiving placebo. There were no serious depression-related events or suicides reported in either group.
The majority of patients who reported serious depression or suicidal behavior had a history of depression or other serious psychiatric disorders and most were receiving psychoactive medications. It is unknown if treatment with BENLYSTA is associated with increased risk for these events.
Patients receiving BENLYSTA should be instructed to contact their healthcare provider if they experience new or worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, or other mood changes.
The impact of treatment with BENLYSTA on the development of malignancies is not known.
In the controlled clinical trials of BENLYSTA administered intravenously, malignancies (including non-melanoma skin cancers) were reported in 0.4% of patients receiving BENLYSTA and 0.4% of patients receiving placebo. In the intravenous controlled clinical trials, malignancies, excluding non-melanoma skin cancers, were observed in 0.2% (3/1,458) and 0.3% (2/675) of patients receiving BENLYSTA and placebo, respectively. In the controlled clinical trial of BENLYSTA administered subcutaneously (N = 836), the data were similar. The mechanism of action of BENLYSTA could increase the risk for the development of malignancies.
Live vaccines should not be given for 30 days before or concurrently with BENLYSTA as clinical safety has not been established. No data are available on the secondary transmission of infection from persons receiving live vaccines to patients receiving BENLYSTA or the effect of BENLYSTA on new immunizations. Because of its mechanism of action, BENLYSTA may interfere with the response to immunizations.
Concomitant Use With Other Biologic Therapies Or Intravenous Cyclophosphamide
BENLYSTA has not been studied in combination with other biologic therapies, including B-cell targeted therapies, or intravenous cyclophosphamide. Therefore, use of BENLYSTA is not recommended in combination with biologic therapies or intravenous cyclophosphamide.
Patient Counseling Information
Advise the patient to read the FDA-approved patient labeling (Medication Guide and Instructions for Use). It is important that the patient's overall health be assessed at each visit and any questions resulting from the patient's reading of the Medication Guide and Instructions for Use be discussed.
For patients receiving BENLYSTA, give patients the Medication Guide for BENLYSTA.
Advise patients that more patients receiving BENLYSTA in the main clinical trials died than did patients receiving placebo treatment [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Advise patients that BENLYSTA may decrease their ability to fight infections. Ask patients if they have a history of chronic infections and if they are currently on any therapy for an infection [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Instruct patients to tell their healthcare provider if they develop signs or symptoms of an infection.
Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
Advise patients to contact their healthcare professional if they experience new or worsening neurological symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, dizziness or loss of balance, difficulty talking or walking, or vision problems [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Hypersensitivity Reactions/Anaphylaxis and Infusion Reactions
Educate patients on the signs and symptoms of hypersensitivity reactions and infusion reactions, including wheezing, difficulty breathing, angioedema, rash, hypotension, bradycardia, and headache. Instruct patients to immediately tell their healthcare provider if they experience symptoms of an allergic reaction during or after the administration of BENLYSTA. Inform patients to tell their healthcare provider about possible delayed reactions that may include a combination of symptoms such as rash, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, and/or facial swelling that may occur after administration of BENLYSTA [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Instruct patients to contact their healthcare provider if they experience new or worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, or other mood changes [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Immunizations Inform patients that they should not receive live vaccines while taking BENLYSTA. Response to
vaccinations could be impaired by BENLYSTA [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. Pregnancy Registry Inform patients that there is a pregnancy registry to monitor fetal outcomes of pregnant women
exposed to BENLYSTA [see Use in Specific Populations]. Pregnancy Inform female patients of reproductive potential that BENLYSTA may impact the immune
system in infants of treated mothers and to inform their prescriber of a known or suspected pregnancy [see Use in Specific Populations].
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment Of Fertility
Long-term animal studies have not been performed to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of belimumab.
Effects on male and female fertility have not been directly evaluated in animal studies.
Use In Specific Populations
Pregnancy Exposure Registry
There is a pregnancy exposure registry that monitors pregnancy outcomes in women exposed to BENLYSTA during pregnancy. Healthcare professionals are encouraged to register patients by calling 1-877-681-6296.
Available data on use of BENLYSTA in pregnant women, from observational studies, published case reports, and postmarketing surveillance, are insufficient to determine whether there is a drug-associated risk for major birth defects or miscarriage. There are risks to the mother and fetus associated with SLE (see Clinical Considerations). Monoclonal antibodies, such as belimumab, are actively transported across the placenta during the third trimester of pregnancy and may affect immune response in the in utero-exposed infant (see Clinical Considerations). In an animal combined embryo-fetal and pre-and post-natal development study with monkeys that received belimumab by intravenous administration, there was no evidence of fetal harm with exposures approximately 9 times (based on intravenous administration) and 20 times (based on subcutaneous administration) the exposure at the maximum recommended human dose (MRHD). Belimumab-related findings in monkey fetuses and/or infants included reductions of B-cell counts, reductions in the density of lymphoid tissue B-lymphocytes in the spleen and lymph nodes, and altered IgG and IgM titers. The no-adverse-effect-level (NOAEL) was not identified for these findings; however, they were reversible within 3 to 12 months after the drug was discontinued (see Data). Based on animal data and the mechanism of action of belimumab, the immune system in infants of treated mothers may be adversely affected. It is unknown, based on available data, whether immune effects, if identified, are reversible [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].
The estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage for the indicated population is unknown. All pregnancies have a background risk of birth defect, loss, or other
adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2% to 4% and 15% to 20%, respectively.
Disease-Associated Maternal and/or Embryo/Fetal Risk:
Pregnant women with SLE are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including worsening of the underlying disease, premature birth, miscarriage, and intrauterine growth restriction. Maternal lupus nephritis increases the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia/eclampsia. Passage of maternal autoantibodies across the placenta may result in adverse neonatal outcomes, including neonatal lupus and congenital heart block.
Fetal/Neonatal Adverse Reactions:
Monoclonal antibodies are increasingly transported across the placenta as pregnancy progresses, with the largest amount transferred during the third trimester. Risks and benefits should be considered prior to administering live or live-attenuated vaccines to infants exposed to BENLYSTA in utero. Monitor an infant of a treated mother for B-cell reduction and other immune dysfunction [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
In a combined embryo-fetal and pre-and post-natal development study, pregnant cynomolgus monkeys received belimumab at intravenous doses of 0, 5, or 150 mg/kg every 2 weeks from confirmation of pregnancy at Gestation Days (GD) 20 to 22, throughout the period of organogenesis (up to approximately GD 50), and continuing to either the day of scheduled cesarean section (GD 150 [late third trimester]) or the day of parturition. There was no evidence of maternal toxicity, effects on embryofetal and infant survival, or structural abnormalities at exposure approximately 9 times the MRHD of 10 mg/kg intravenously or 20 times the MRHD of 200 mg subcutaneously (on an AUC basis with maternal animal intravenous doses up to 150 mg/kg). Belimumab-related findings in mothers included reductions of immature and mature B-cell counts and in fetuses and/or infants included reductions of immature and mature B-cell counts, reductions in the density of lymphoid tissue B-lymphocytes in the spleen and lymph nodes, reduced spleen weights, increased IgG titers, and reduced IgM titers. B-cell counts in infant monkeys exposed to belimumab in utero recovered by 3 months of age and in mothers after 1 year. IgG and IgM levels in infant monkeys recovered by 6 months of age and the reductions in B-lymphocytes in the lymph nodes and spleen were reversed by 1 year of age. Belimumab crossed the placenta, as it was detected in fetal cord blood and amniotic fluid on GD 150.
No information is available on the presence of belimumab in human milk, the effects of the drug on the breastfed infant, or the effects of the drug on milk production. Belimumab was detected in the milk of cynomolgus monkeys; however, due to species-specific differences in lactation
physiology, animal data may not predict drug levels in human milk. Maternal IgG is known to be present in human milk. If belimumab is transferred into human milk, the effects of local exposure in the gastrointestinal tract and potential limited systemic exposure in the infant to belimumab are unknown. The lack of clinical data during lactation precludes clear determination of the risk of BENLYSTA to an infant during lactation; therefore, the developmental and health benefits of breastfeeding should be considered along with the mother's clinical need for BENLYSTA, and any potential adverse effects on the breastfed child from BENLYSTA or from the underlying maternal condition.
Females And Males Of Reproductive Potential
Following an assessment of benefit versus risk, if prevention of pregnancy is warranted, females of reproductive potential should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 4 months after the final treatment.
Safety and effectiveness of BENLYSTA have not been established in children.
Clinical studies of BENLYSTA did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 or older to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. Use with caution in elderly patients.
The safety and efficacy of BENLYSTA were evaluated in studies that included patients with SLE who had mild (creatinine clearance [CrCl] ≥60 and <90 mL/min), moderate (CrCl ≥30 and <60 mL/min), or severe (CrCl ≥15 and <30 mL/min) renal impairment. No dosage adjustment is recommended in patients with renal impairment.
No formal trials were conducted to examine the effects of hepatic impairment on the pharmacokinetics of belimumab. No dosage adjustment is recommended in patients with hepatic impairment.
In Trial 2 and Trial 3 (intravenous dosing), SLE Responder Index-4 (SRI-4) response rates were lower for black patients receiving BENLYSTA plus standard therapy relative to black patients receiving placebo plus standard therapy [see Clinical Studies]. In Trial 4 (subcutaneous dosing), SRI-4 response was slightly higher for black patients receiving BENLYSTA plus standard therapy relative to black patients receiving placebo plus standard therapy, but the treatment difference was not as large as that observed in the overall population and no definitive
conclusion can be drawn from this subgroup analysis [see Clinical Studies]. Caution should be used when considering treatment with BENLYSTA in black/African-American patients.