Placebo-Controlled Trial of an Oral BTK Inhibitor in Multiple Sclerosis

N Engl J Med. 2019 Jun 20;380(25):2406-2417. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1901981. Epub 2019 May 10.


Background: Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) regulates the functions of B cells and myeloid cells that are implicated in the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis. Evobrutinib is a selective oral BTK inhibitor that has been shown to inhibit B-cell activation both in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: In this double-blind, randomized, phase 2 trial, we assigned patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis to one of five groups: placebo, evobrutinib (at a dose of 25 mg once daily, 75 mg once daily, or 75 mg twice daily), or open-label dimethyl fumarate (DMF) as a reference. The primary end point was the total (cumulative) number of gadolinium-enhancing lesions identified on T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging at weeks 12, 16, 20, and 24. Key secondary end points included the annualized relapse rate and change from baseline in the score on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS).

Results: A total of 267 patients were randomly assigned to a trial group. The mean (±SD) total number of gadolinium-enhancing lesions during weeks 12 through 24 was 3.85±5.44 in the placebo group, 4.06±8.02 in the evobrutinib 25-mg group, 1.69±4.69 in the evobrutinib 75-mg once-daily group, 1.15±3.70 in the evobrutinib 75-mg twice-daily group, and 4.78±22.05 in the DMF group. The baseline adjusted rate ratios for the total number of lesions over time as compared with placebo were 1.45 in the evobrutinib 25-mg group (P = 0.32), 0.30 in the evobrutinib 75-mg once-daily group (P = 0.005), and 0.44 in the evobrutinib 75-mg twice-daily group (P = 0.06). The unadjusted annualized relapse rate at week 24 was 0.37 in the placebo group, 0.57 in the evobrutinib 25-mg group, 0.13 in the evobrutinib 75-mg once-daily group, 0.08 in the evobrutinib 75-mg twice-daily group, and 0.20 in the DMF group. There was no significant effect of trial group on the change from baseline in the EDSS score. Elevations in liver aminotransferase values were observed with evobrutinib.

Conclusions: Patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis who received 75 mg of evobrutinib once daily had significantly fewer enhancing lesions during weeks 12 through 24 than those who received placebo. There was no significant difference with placebo for either the 25-mg once-daily or 75-mg twice-daily dose of evobrutinib, nor in the annualized relapse rate or disability progression at any dose. Longer and larger trials are required to determine the effect and risks of evobrutinib in patients with multiple sclerosis. (Funded by EMD Serono; number, NCT02975349.).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Agammaglobulinaemia Tyrosine Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology
  • Dimethyl Fumarate / therapeutic use
  • Disease Progression
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / diagnostic imaging
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage
  • Piperidines / adverse effects
  • Piperidines / therapeutic use*
  • Placebos / therapeutic use
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Pyrimidines / administration & dosage
  • Pyrimidines / adverse effects
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use*
  • Transaminases / blood
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Piperidines
  • Placebos
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidines
  • Transaminases
  • Agammaglobulinaemia Tyrosine Kinase
  • Dimethyl Fumarate
  • evobrutinib

Associated data