April 24, 2014
Merck, a leading company for innovative and top- quality high-tech products in the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors, announced that the Phase IIIb SPARK* study has met its primary endpoint. The results of the first 26 weeks of this study demonstrated that the addition of Kuvan® (sapropterin dihydrochloride) to a phenylalanine-restricted diet in children less than 4 years of age who have phenylketonuria (PKU) and have been previously shown to be responsive to Kuvan significantly increased tolerance to phenylalanine compared with a phenylalanine-restricted diet alone. The safety profile of Kuvan in this population was consistent with the safety profile for Kuvan described in the European Summary of Product Characteristics. The 26-week results will be submitted for presentation at upcoming international scientific meetings and for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. SPARK was requested by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as a post- authorization measure and demonstrates Merck’s commitment to addressing areas of high unmet medical need. The positive outcome of the study will enable the submission of a regulatory application for a label extension later this year.
Dr John Orloff, Global Head of Clinical Development at Merck’s biopharmaceutical division Merck Serono, underlined the company’s commitment to better management of PKU for all those affected by it: “PKU is a serious rare disease that has a significant impact on patients and their families. We are delighted by the positive outcome of this study, and remain dedicated to further improving our understanding of PKU in infants and young children.”
PKU is an inborn metabolic disorder that causes the toxic accumulation of phenylalanine, an essential amino acid found in all protein-containing foods, in the brain and blood.1,2 Untreated, PKU can lead to intellectual disability, seizures and other serious medical problems.1,2 In many countries, implementation of national newborn screening programs has allowed identification of children with PKU at birth, enabling the management of the disease to begin as early as possible in order to avoid potentially severe neurological damage. 3
“This is the first time a controlled study such as this has been conducted in children below 4 years of age with PKU” said Professor Ania Muntau, Klinikum University Munich, Germany, and lead investigator for SPARK. “These study findings with Kuvan in addition to phenylalanine-restricted diet could lead to a new disease management approach to control blood phenylalanine levels right from birth.”
SPARK is a Phase IIIb, multicenter, open-label, randomized, controlled study designed to assess the efficacy, safety, and population pharmacokinetics of Kuvan in patients younger than 4 years old with PKU and who have been previously shown to be responsive to Kuvan in a response test. The study was conducted under a Pediatric Investigational Plan. Patients were randomized to Kuvan (10 mg/kg/day) plus a phenylalanine-restricted diet, or to a phenylalanine-restricted diet alone, for 26 weeks, and the primary endpoint of the study was to compare phenylalanine tolerance achieved in both arms after 26 weeks of treatment. Secondary study endpoints included change in levels of blood phenylalanine during the study period, change in dietary phenylalanine tolerance over time (from baseline to 26 weeks) in both groups, as well as assessment of neurodevelopmental function, growth parameters and safety.
The long-term efficacy and safety of Kuvan will be assessed in the study’s 3-year extension period, in which all patients will be offered to receive Kuvan in addition to the phenylalanine-restricted diet.
European marketing authorization was granted for Kuvan in 2008. Kuvan was the first, and remains the only, medication in combination with dietary modifications in Europe designed to reduce the concentration of phenylalanine in the blood and in the brain in those patients who are responsive to Kuvan to prevent the debilitating effects of PKU.4 Kuvan is indicated in patients of all ages with tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) deficiency, and in those aged 4 years and above with PKU (due phenylalanine hydroxylase enzyme deficiency) who are responsive to Kuvan. Currently, there is no licensed medication in Europe for the treatment of PKU in the 0–4 years age group. Kuvan is marketed by Merck Serono outside the USA, Canada and Japan, by BioMarin in the USA and Canada, and under the name Biopten® by Asubio Pharma in Japan. In the USA and Europe, Kuvan received orphan drug designation.