Acthar Gel May Ease Symptoms of Sarcoidosis in African Americans

Margarida Maia, PhD avatar

by Margarida Maia, PhD |

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African Americans with advanced-stage pulmonary sarcoidosis who are taking Acthar Gel (repository corticotropin injection) may see their symptoms ease and be able to reduce the use of other medications, according to new findings.

The findings were pulled from a new subgroup analysis of a real-world study that looked at the medical charts of adults who had received Achtar Gel to treat sarcoidosis.

“We believe the results of this retrospective medical chart review subgroup analysis support Acthar Gel’s role as a viable treatment option for African Americans with advanced symptomatic sarcoidosis and support the importance of continued collection of real-world data to help inform patients’ treatment options,” George J. Wan, PhD, vice president of health economics and outcomes research at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, said in a press release. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals markets Acthar Gel.

Wan presented the results in a poster titled “Repository corticotropin injection in African Americans with advanced symptomatic sarcoidosis: A retrospective analysis of medical records” at the American Thoracic Society Annual International Conference, held this year in San Francisco on May 13–18.

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Acthar Gel is a naturally sourced mixture of compounds similar to corticotropin (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and other small proteins made by the brain’s pituitary gland. Corticotropin drives the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys to produce and release cortisol, and is thought to help reduce the inflammation associated with sarcoidosis.

Previous findings from the overall population of the real-world study suggested Acthar Gel may be a viable option for treating patients with advanced-stage sarcoidosis.

Researchers performed a new analysis focusing on African Americans, who are four to 17 times more likely to develop sarcoidosis than Caucasians, according to the scientists. “It is important to close the gaps in health care disparities through the provision of effective interventions to the underserved populations with sarcoidosis,” they said.

The analysis was based on data from 168 African Americans with pulmonary sarcoidosis who had completed a course of Acthar Gel or received Acthar Gel for at least six months.

There were 91 women and 77 men, and most (59%) were 45–64 years old. The mean time since their diagnosis was 5.2 years. They had received Acthar Gel for a mean of 32 weeks (more than six months).

Apart from the lungs, 73% of patients had at least one other organ involved, most commonly the skin (27%), the heart (24%), the eyes (22%), and the joints (21%). Their most common symptoms were shortness of breath (45%), fatigue (44%), bone and joint pain (24%), and wheezing or coughing (21%).

After treatment with Acthar Gel, doctors observed that 160 (95%) patients had improved health: 122 (73%) patients had overall symptom improvement and 57 (34%) had less inflammation. There also were improvements in quality of life in 53 (32%) patients, and 51 (30%) saw improved lung function.

“Improvement in current status was reported in 95% of the African Americans, consistent with the overall population,” the researchers wrote.

Being started on Acthar Gel also resulted in a significant reduction in using other medications. The proportion of patients who used glucocorticoids decreased significantly from 59.5% during the three months before starting Acthar Gel to 11.9% three months after treatment. The mean daily dose of glucocorticoids also decreased — from 18.5 milligrams (mg) to 10.1 mg.

The findings suggest Acthar Gel may be as viable an option for treating African Americans as it is for the larger population, “thereby closing the gap on health disparities in these vulnerable and underserved populations,” the researchers wrote.

“It’s critical that ongoing sarcoidosis research highlights the disparities that exist for African Americans with regards to diagnosis, severity of illness and response to treatments,” Mary McGowan, CEO of the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research, said. The foundation is running an #IgnoreNoMore campaign sponsored by Mallinckrodt to raise awareness about sarcoidosis among African American women.

“More studies are required that deepen our understandings of these differences and provide meaningful strategies to improve outcomes among this community,” McGowan said.