EMA: Recommendation to suspend tetrazepam-containing medicines

May 8, 2013

May 09, 2013 – This is from the News and Press Release Archive of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as of April 29, 2013.  Find here the unedited release in full:

29/04/2013

Recommendation to suspend tetrazepam-containing medicines endorsed by CMDh

Following the recent recommendation by the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), the Co-ordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedures – Human (CMDh) has endorsed by majority the PRAC recommendation to suspend the marketing authorisations of tetrazepam-containing medicines across the European Union (EU). The CMDh, a body representing EU Member States, is responsible for ensuring harmonised safety standards for medicines authorised via national marketing authorisation procedures across the EU.

Tetrazepam, a medicine of the benzodiazepine class, is used in several EU Member States to treat painful contractures (such as in low back pain and neck pain) and spasticity (excessive stiffness of muscles).

The CMDh position will now be sent to the European Commission, which will take a legally binding decision throughout the EU.

The review of tetrazepam was triggered by the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicine and Health ProductsExternal link icon (ANSM), following reports of serious skin reactions with this medicine in France. Having assessed all available data on the risk of skin reactions, including post-marketing data in the EU and the published literature, the PRAC concluded that tetrazepam is associated with a low but increased risk of serious skin reactions (including Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and DRESS syndrome) compared with other benzodiazepines. The Committee also noted that, in the light of the risks identified, the available data on the effectiveness of tetrazepam were not sufficiently robust to support its use in the authorised indications.

The CMDh agreed with the PRAC conclusion that the benefits of these medicines do not outweigh their risks, and adopted a final position that the marketing authorisations should be suspended throughout the EU.

The suspension of the marketing authorisations can be lifted if the companies that market these medicines provide data identifying a specific group of patients for whom the benefits of tetrazepam-containing medicines outweigh the risks.

Information to patients

  • Tetrazepam is a muscle relaxant used in painful conditions such as low back pain and neck pain as well as spasticity (excessive stiffness of muscles).
  • As a result of the risk of unpredictable, serious skin reactions identified, the CMDh position is that tetrazepam-containing medicines should no longer be used in the EU.
  • If you are taking a tetrazepam-containing medicine, you should not suddenly stop taking tetrazepam without your doctor’s advice. You should make an appointment with your treating doctor to discuss your treatment. Your doctor may also consider an appropriate alternative treatment for you.

Information to healthcare professionals

  • In light of the unfavourable benefit-risk balance, doctors should review their patients’ treatment at their next appointment, and may consider an appropriate alternative treatment.
  • Pharmacists should refer patients on a new or repeat prescription for tetrazepam to their treating physician.

The CMDh position is based on the PRAC review of all available data on the risk of skin reactions with tetrazepam, including post-marketing data in the EU and the published literature, and the available information on efficacy in licensed indications:

  • The review found that half of the reported reactions with tetrazepam are skin disorders, which are sometimes serious, life-threatening or fatal. Serious skin reactions include Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), erythema multiforme and drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) syndrome. They are unpredictable and can occur at any stage during treatment, including after short-term treatment, and at recommended doses.
  • In the pharmacovigilance database of the originator product, Myolastan, a total of 513 cutaneous (or allergic) reactions were identified. 65 cases of SJS and TEN were reported. Although the majority of cases occurred in patients taking concomitant medications, the causal link with tetrazepam was strong in a high number of cases.
  • The risk of skin reaction is higher with tetrazepam than with other benzodiazepines. This is possibly explained by a structural difference between tetrazepam and other benzodiazepines (i.e. the substituted cyclohexenyl ring of tetrazepam).
  • Regarding its efficacy, four studies showed no difference between tetrazepam and other active medicines when used for spasticity. The efficacy of tetrazepam for painful contractures is supported mainly by two small double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials showing limited efficacy.

In view of the serious, potentially fatal, skin reactions and the limited efficacy of tetrazepam, the benefit-risk balance of tetrazepam-containing medicines is considered no longer favourable.


More about the medicine

Tetrazepam belongs to a group of medicines called benzodiazepines. It is taken by mouth to treat painful contractures (sustained shortening of muscle tissue), and spasticity (excessive stiffness of muscles).

Tetrazepam-containing medicines have been approved since the 1960s via national procedures in several EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain), and are available on prescription under various trade names, including Epsipam, Miozepam, Musapam, Musaril, Myolastan, Myopam, Panos, Relaxam, Spasmorelax, Tetra-saar, Tetramdura and Tetraratio. The full list is available in Annex I on the EMA website.

Benzodiazepines work by attaching to certain receptors in the brain, thereby increasing the activity of a substance called gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA decreases the excitability of many brain cells. By increasing GABA activity, benzodiazepines have a calming effect on various functions of the brain. In particular, tetrazepam is used for its muscle relaxant effects.

More about the procedure

The review of tetrazepam-containing medicines was initiated in January 2013 at the request of France, under Article 107i of Directive 2001/83/EC, also known as the urgent Union procedure.

The review was first conducted by the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), the Committee responsible for the evaluation of safety issues for human medicines, which made a set of recommendations. As tetrazepam-containing medicines are all authorised nationally, the PRAC recommendations were sent to the Co-ordination Group for Mutual Recognition and Decentralised Procedures – Human (CMDh), which adopted a final position. The CMDh is composed of representatives of all EU Member States. Its main responsibility is to resolve disagreements between Member States involved in mutual recognition or decentralised procedures, to ensure that patients have the same level of protection, no matter where they are in the EU.

As the CMDh position was adopted by majority vote, the CMDh position will now be sent to the European Commission, which will take an EU-wide legally binding decision.


European Medicines Agency (EMA) starts review of aliskiren-containing medicines

January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012 – Recently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced that it  is reviewing aliskiren-containing medicines, to assess the impact of data coming from the ALTITUDE study on the balance of benefits and risks of these medicines in their approved indication. Aliskiren-containing medicines are approved for the treatment of essential hypertension. ‘Essential’ means that there is no obvious cause for high blood pressure.

The Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) started the review after it was informed on 19 December 2011 by the marketing authorisation holder of the decision to terminate the ALTITUDE study early. This clinical trial included patients with type 2 diabetes and renal impairment and/or cardiovascular disease. In most patients arterial blood pressure was adequately controlled. The patients included in the trial received aliskiren in addition to either an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB).

Termination of the placebo-controlled phase III trial was recommended by the independent Data Monitoring Committee overseeing the study, because the results showed that there was no benefit with aliskiren and that there were more cases of stroke, renal complications, hyperkalemia and hypotension in patients who received aliskiren compared with patients who received a placebo.

The information available at present is limited. The Committee has asked the company to provide additional analyses to allow the CHMP to assess the impact of the results of the ALTITUDE trial on the overall benefit-risk profile of aliskiren-containing medicines and to determine the need for regulatory action.

Interim advice for doctors and patients

While the review is ongoing the CHMP recommends, as a precautionary measure, that doctors should not prescribe aliskiren-containing medicines to diabetic patients in combination with ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

Doctors should therefore review the treatment of patients taking aliskiren at a routine (non-urgent) appointment, and if patients are diabetic and are also taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs, aliskiren should be stopped and alternative treatments considered.

Patients should not stop any of their treatment before speaking to their doctor, because stopping anti-hypertensive medication without medical supervision can put them at risk. They are advised to discuss their treatment with their doctor at their next scheduled (non-urgent) appointment.

Patients in clinical trials with aliskiren should contact their study site for guidance on their medication.

Further information on the review of aliskiren-containing medicines will be provided when available.

 Additional Notes

  • Eight aliskiren-containing medicines are authorised in the European Union since 2007: Rasilamlo, Rasilez, Rasilez HCT, Rasitrio, Riprazo, Riprazo HCT, Sprimeo, Sprimeo HCT. Some of these medicines (Rasilamlo, Rasilez HCT, Rasitrio, Riprazo HCT and Sprimeo HCT) are combinations of aliskiren with other antihypertensive medicines.
  • The review of aliskiren is conducted in the context of a formal review, initiated at the request of the European Commission under Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 726/2004.

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