Background: There is a great unmet need for advanced therapies that provide rapid, robust, and sustained disease control for patients with ulcerative colitis. We assessed the efficacy and safety of upadacitinib, an oral selective Janus kinase 1 inhibitor, as induction and maintenance therapy in patients with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis.
Methods: This phase 3, multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical programme consisted of two replicate induction studies (U-ACHIEVE induction [UC1] and U-ACCOMPLISH [UC2]) and a single maintenance study (U-ACHIEVE maintenance [UC3]). The studies were conducted across Europe, North and South America, Australasia, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region at 199 clinical centres in 39 countries (UC1), 204 clinical centres in 40 countries (UC2), and 195 clinical centres in 35 countries (UC3). Patients aged 16-75 years with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis (Adapted Mayo score 5-9; endoscopic subscore 2 or 3) for at least 90 days were randomly assigned (2:1) to oral upadacitinib 45 mg once daily or placebo for 8 weeks (induction studies). Patients who achieved clinical response following 8-week upadacitinib induction were re-randomly assigned (1:1:1) to upadacitinib 15 mg, upadacitinib 30 mg, or placebo for 52 weeks (maintenance study). All patients were randomly assigned using web-based interactive response technology. The primary endpoints were clinical remission per Adapted Mayo score at week 8 (induction) and week 52 (maintenance). The efficacy analyses in the two induction studies were based on the intent-to-treat population, which included all randomised patients who received at least one dose of treatment. In the maintenance study, the primary efficacy analyses reported in this manuscript were based on the first 450 (planned) clinical responders to 8-week induction therapy with upadacitinib 45 mg once daily. The safety analysis population in the induction studies consisted of all randomised patients who received at least one dose of treatment; in the maintenance study, this population included all patients who received at least one dose of treatment as part of the primary analysis population. These studies are registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02819635 (U-ACHIEVE) and NCT03653026 (U-ACCOMPLISH).
Findings: Between Oct 23, 2018, and Sept 7, 2020, 474 patients were randomly assigned to upadacitinib 45 mg once daily (n=319) or placebo (n=155) in UC1. Between Dec 6, 2018, and Jan 14, 2021, 522 patients were randomly assigned to upadacitinib 45 mg once daily (n=345) or placebo (n=177) in UC2. In UC3, a total of 451 patients (21 from the phase 2b study, 278 from UC1, and 152 from UC2) who achieved a clinical response after 8 weeks of upadacitinib induction treatment were randomly assigned again to upadacitinib 15 mg (n=148), upadacitinib 30 mg (n=154), and placebo (n=149) in the primary analysis population. Statistically significantly more patients achieved clinical remission with upadacitinib 45 mg (83 [26%] of 319 patients in UC1 and 114 [34%] of 341 patients in UC2) than in the placebo group (seven [5%] of 154 patients in UC1 and seven [4%] of 174 patients; p<0·0001; adjusted treatment difference 21·6% [95% CI 15·8-27·4] for UC1 and 29·0% [23·2-34·7] for UC2). In the maintenance study, clinical remission was achieved by statistically significantly more patients receiving upadacitinib (15 mg 63 [42%] of 148; 30 mg 80 [52%] of 154) than those receiving placebo (18 [12%] of 149; p<0·0001; adjusted treatment difference 30·7% [21·7-39·8] for upadacitinib 15 mg vs placebo and 39·0% [29·7-48·2] for upadacitinib 30 mg vs placebo). The most commonly reported adverse events in UC1 were nasopharyngitis (15 [5%] of 319 in the upadacitinib 45 mg group vs six [4%] of 155 in the placebo group), creatine phosphokinase elevation (15 [4%] vs three [2%]), and acne (15 [5%] vs one [1%]). In UC2, the most frequently reported adverse event was acne (24 [7%] of 344 in the upadacitinib 45 mg group vs three [2%] of 177 in the placebo group). In both induction studies, serious adverse events and adverse events leading to discontinuation of treatment were less frequent in the upadacitinib 45 mg group than in the placebo group (serious adverse events eight [3%] vs nine (6%) in UC1 and 11 [3%] vs eight [5%] in UC2; adverse events leading to discontinuation six [2%] vs 14 [9%] in UC1 and six [2%] vs nine [5%] in UC2). In UC3, the most frequently reported adverse events (≥5%) were worsening of ulcerative colitis (19 [13%] of 148 in the upadacitinib 15 mg group vs 11 [7%] of 154 in the upadacitinib 30 mg group vs 45 [30%] of 149 in the placebo group), nasopharyngitis (18 [12%] vs 22 [14%] vs 15 [10%]), creatine phosphokinase elevation (nine [6%] vs 13 [8%] vs three [2%]), arthralgia (nine [6%] vs five [3%] vs 15 [10%]), and upper respiratory tract infection (seven [5%] vs nine [6%] vs six [4%]). The proportion of serious adverse events (ten [7%] vs nine [6%] vs 19 [13%]) and adverse events leading to discontinuation (six [4%] vs ten [6%] vs 17 [11%]) was lower in both upadacitinib groups than in the placebo group. Events of cancer, adjudicated major adverse cardiac events, or venous thromboembolism were reported infrequently. There were no treatment-related deaths.
Interpretation: Upadacitinib demonstrated a positive efficacy and safety profile and could be an effective treatment option for patients with moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis.
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