Dec 05, 2015
  • Data suggest myelofibrosis (MF) patients treated with Jakavi® (ruxolitinib) after 5 years lived longer despite crossover from best available therapy after week 48[1]
  • Phase III results show Jakavi met primary endpoint in inadequately controlled polycythemia vera (PV) patients without enlarged spleen 
  • Jakavi is approved globally to treat certain patients with MF and PV, rare and life-threatening blood cancers with debilitating symptoms when not properly managed[2],[3]

Basel, December 5, 2015 - Novartis announced today that five-year treatment with Jakavi® (ruxolitinib) suggested an overall survival advantage for patients with myelofibrosis (MF), despite crossover to Jakavi from the best available therapy arm after the primary analysis at 48 weeks (intent-to-treat analysis: 33% reduction in risk of death, hazard ratio=0.67 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.44-1.02], crossover-corrected hazard ratio=0.44 [95% CI, 0.18-1.04]). In the COMFORT-II (COntrolled MyeloFibrosis Study with ORal JAK Inhibitor Therapy) Phase III study, more than half of the patients with MF (53.4%) also experienced significant reductions (>=35%) in spleen size with Jakavi therapy, and sustained this benefit over prolonged periods of time (median duration of 3.2 years)[1]. Findings from this study were presented at the 57th American Society of Hematology Meeting (ASH) in Orlando, Florida.

"Given that patients with myelofibrosis have shortened survival expectations and are at an increased risk of complications, the five-year findings from COMFORT-II demonstrate a long-term benefit with Jakavi therapy that is meaningful to the community," said Claire Harrison, MD, study investigator and Consultant Hematologist, Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London. "These data help to confirm the important role Jakavi plays in these difficult-to-treat patients."

In addition to the Jakavi data presented at ASH, Novartis announced that a separate Phase III study met its primary endpoint-patients with polycythemia vera (PV) resistant to or intolerant of hydroxyurea who did not have an enlarged spleen who were treated with Jakavi maintained hematocrit control without the need for phlebotomy. In the Phase III RESPONSE 2 (Randomized Study of Efficacy and Safety in POlycythemia Vera with JAK INhibitor Ruxolitinib VerSus BEst Available Care) study, the safety profile of Jakavi was consistent with previous studies. Full results from the trial continue to be evaluated and will be presented at a future medical congress.

"The growing body of research confirms the benefit of Jakavi for patients with rare blood cancers, such as myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera, who have limited treatment options," said Alessandro Riva, MD, Global Head, Novartis Oncology Development and Medical Affairs. "In addition to exhibiting long-term benefits in myelofibrosis, Jakavi also showed potential to benefit a broader population of patients with polycythemia vera, bringing hope to another underserved patient community."

About the COMFORT-II Study
COMFORT-II (COntrolled MyeloFibrosis Study with ORal JAK Inhibitor Therapy) is a randomized, open-label, Phase III study of 219 patients with primary MF, post-polycythemia vera myelofibrosis (PPV-MF) or post-essential thrombocythemia myelofibrosis (PET-MF) in 56 study locations in Europe. Two-thirds of patients (146) received Jakavi twice daily and one-third of patients (73) received best available therapy, which was administered at doses and schedules determined by the investigator. Best available therapy was selected by the investigator for each patient and could have included a combination of available agents to treat the disease and/or its symptoms. Of the patients on the best available therapy arm, 61.6% crossed over to receive Jakavi upon protocol-defined progression following the primary analysis after week 48. All patients randomized to best available therapy have crossed over or discontinued. An analysis of the study at five years was performed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Jakavi in patients with MF[1].

In the Phase III trial, fibrosis grades, a key indicator of disease control in MF, improved (15.8%) or were maintained (32.2%) in nearly half of patients with long-term Jakavi treatment. Nearly one-quarter of patients (26.7% from Jakavi treatment arm; 24.4% who crossed over from best available treatment arm) remained on treatment with Jakavi for five years. All adverse events (AEs) were consistent with previous analyses of treatment with Jakavi in patients with MF. The most common AEs in Jakavi-treated patients either after randomization or after crossing over from best available therapy were thrombocytopenia (52.4%), anemia (49.2%), diarrhea (35.6%) and peripheral edema (33.0%). The most common grade 3/4 AEs included anemia (22.5%), thrombocytopenia (15.2%), pneumonia (5.8%), general physical health deterioration (4.2%) and shortness of breath (4.2%)[1].

About the RESPONSE 2 Study
RESPONSE 2 (Randomized Study of Efficacy and Safety in POlycythemia Vera with JAK INhibitor Ruxolitinib VerSus BEst Available Care) is a multi-center, open label, randomized, Phase IIIb study evaluating the efficacy and safety of Jakavi versus best available therapy. The trial randomized 149 patients with PV who were resistant to or intolerant of hydroxyurea, dependent on phlebotomy for hematocrit control and did not have an enlarged spleen. Patients were randomized 1:1, by stratification (based on hydroxyurea resistance or intolerance) to receive either Jakavi (10 mg twice daily) or best available therapy, which was defined as investigator selected monotherapy or observation only. The dose was adjusted as needed throughout the study.

About Myelofibrosis
MF is part of a group of related rare blood cancers known as myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) where a patient's bone marrow can no longer produce enough normal blood cells, causing the spleen to enlarge[2]. As a result, patients with MF may suffer from debilitating symptoms and have a poor quality of life[4]. After diagnosis, patients with MF have a decreased life expectancy, with an average survival of approximately five to six years[5]. Although allogeneic stem cell transplantation may cure MF, the procedure is associated with significant morbidity and transplant-related mortality, and is available to less than 5% of patients who are young and fit enough to undergo the procedure[6].

About Polycythemia Vera
Also an MPN, PV is associated with an overproduction of blood cells in the bone marrow and affects roughly one to three people per 100,000 globally[3],[7]. The disease is driven by the dysregulation of the JAK-STAT pathway[8]. It is typically characterized by elevated hematocrit, the volume percentage of red blood cells in whole blood, which can lead to a thickening of the blood and an increased risk of blood clots, as well as an elevated white blood cell and platelet count[3]. This can cause serious cardiovascular complications, such as stroke and heart attack, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality[9]. Approximately 60 to 70% of patients with PV do not have enlarged spleen[10].

A common PV treatment includes phlebotomy, a procedure to remove blood from the body to reduce the concentration of red blood cells, which is used to help maintain a hematocrit level below 45%[3],[9]. However, for a subset of patients, including those with high-risk PV, phlebotomy is usually unsuitable as a permanent treatment option due to its inability to control symptoms or effectively manage the overproduction of red blood cells, therefore cytoreductive agents, such as hydroxyurea, may be added[9]. For patients requiring phlebotomy in combination with hydroxyurea, hematocrit may fluctuate and remain at unsafe levels for significant periods of time[11]. Unfortunately, approximately 25% of patients with PV become resistant to or intolerant of hydroxyurea treatment according to European LeukemiaNet (ELN) criteria, resulting in inadequate disease control and an increased risk of progression[12].

About Jakavi
Jakavi (ruxolitinib) is an oral inhibitor of the JAK 1 and JAK 2 tyrosine kinases. Jakavi is  approved by the European Commission for the treatment of adult patients with polycythemia vera (PV) who are resistant to or intolerant of hydroxyurea and for the treatment of disease-related splenomegaly or symptoms in adult patients with primary myelofibrosis (MF) (also known as chronic idiopathic MF), post-polycythemia vera MF or post-essential thrombocythemia MF. Jakavi is approved in more than 95 countries for patients with MF, including countries in the European Union, Canada, Japan and countries in Asia, Latin and South America, and in 49 countries for patients with PV, including countries in the European Union, Japan and Canada. The exact indication for Jakavi varies by country. Additional worldwide regulatory filings are underway in MF and PV.

Novartis licensed ruxolitinib from Incyte Corporation for development and commercialization outside the United States. Jakavi is marketed in the United States by Incyte Corporation as Jakafi® for the treatment of patients with PV who have had an inadequate response to or are intolerant of hydroxyurea and for the treatment of patients with intermediate or high-risk MF.

The recommended starting dose of Jakavi in PV is 10 mg given orally twice daily. The recommended starting dose of Jakavi in MF is 15 mg twice daily for patients with a platelet count between 100,000 cubic millimeters (mm3) and 200,000 mm3, and 20 mg twice daily for patients with a platelet count of >200,000 mm3. Doses may be titrated based on safety and efficacy. There is limited information to recommend a starting dose for MF and PV patients with platelet counts between 50,000/mm3 and <100,000/mm3. The maximum recommended starting dose in these patients is 5 mg twice daily, and patients should be titrated cautiously[13].

Jakavi is a registered trademark of Novartis AG in countries outside the United States. Jakafi is a registered trademark of Incyte Corporation. The safety and efficacy profile of Jakavi has not yet been established outside the approved indications.

Jakavi Important Safety Information for Treatment of Myelofibrosis (MF) and Polycythemia Vera (PV)
Jakavi can cause serious side effects, including a decrease in blood cell count and infections. Complete blood count monitoring is recommended. Dose reduction or interruption may be required in patients with any hepatic impairment or severe renal impairment or in patients developing hematologic adverse reactions such as thrombocytopenia, anemia and neutropenia. Dose reductions are also recommended when Jakavi is co-administered with strong CYP3A4 inhibitors or fluconazole. Use of Jakavi during pregnancy is not recommended, and women should avoid becoming pregnant during Jakavi therapy. Women taking Jakavi should not breast feed. Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) has been reported. Physicians should be alert for neuropsychiatric symptoms suggestive of PML. Hepatitis B viral load (HBV-DNA titer) increases have been reported in patients with chronic HBV infections. Patients with chronic HBV infection should be treated and monitored according to clinical guidelines. Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) has been reported in Jakavi treated patients. Periodic skin examination is recommended. Very common adverse reactions in MF (>10%) include urinary tract infections, anemia, thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, hypercholesterolemia, dizziness, headache, alanine aminotransferase increased, aspartate aminotransferase increased, bruising and weight gain. Common adverse reactions in MF (1 to 10%) include herpes zoster and flatulence. Uncommon adverse reactions in MF include tuberculosis. Very common adverse reactions in PV (>10%) include anemia, thrombocytopenia, hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, dizziness, alanine aminotransferase increased and aspartate aminotransferase increased. Common adverse reactions in PV (1 to 10%) include urinary tract infections, herpes zoster, weight gain, constipation and hypertension.

Please see full Prescribing Information available at

The foregoing release contains forward-looking statements that can be identified by words such as "suggest," "suggested," "to be evaluated," "will," "growing," "potential," "hope," "underway," or similar terms, or by express or implied discussions regarding potential new indications or labeling for Jakavi, or regarding potential future revenues from Jakavi. You should not place undue reliance on these statements. Such forward-looking statements are based on the current beliefs and expectations of management regarding future events, and are subject to significant known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. There can be no guarantee that Jakavi will be submitted or approved for any additional indications or labeling in any market, or at any particular time. Nor can there be any guarantee that Jakavi will be commercially successful in the future. In particular, management's expectations regarding Jakavi could be affected by, among other things, the uncertainties inherent in research and development, including unexpected clinical trial results and additional analysis of existing clinical data; unexpected regulatory actions or delays or government regulation generally; the company's ability to obtain or maintain proprietary intellectual property protection; general economic and industry conditions; global trends toward health care cost containment, including ongoing pricing pressures; unexpected safety issues; unexpected manufacturing or quality issues, and other risks and factors referred to in Novartis AG's current Form 20-F on file with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Novartis is providing the information in this press release as of this date and does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements contained in this press release as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

About Novartis
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care and cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2014, the Group achieved net sales of USD 58.0 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.9 billion (USD 9.6 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges). Novartis Group companies employ approximately 120,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are available in more than 180 countries around the world. For more information, please visit

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[1] Harrison, C, Vannucchi AM, Kiladjian JJ, et al. Long-Term Efficacy and Safety in Comfort-II, a Phase 3 Study Comparing  Ruxolitinib with Best Available Therapy for the Treatment of Myelofibrosis: 5-Year Final Study Results. Abstract #59. 2015 American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL.
[2] Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "Myelofibrosis Facts." Available at: Accessed December 2015.
[3] Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "Polycythemia Vera Facts." June 2012. Available at Accessed December 2015.
[4] Mesa RA, Schwagera S, Radia D, et al. The Myelofibrosis Symptom Assessment Form (MFSAF): An Evidence-based Brief Inventory to Measure Quality of Life and Symptomatic Response to Treatment in Myelofibrosis. Leuk Res. 2009;33:1199-1203.
[5] Gangat N, Caramazza D, Vaidya R, et al. DIPSS-plus: A Refined Dynamic International Prognostic Scoring System (DIPSS) for Primary Myelofibrosis that Incorporates Prognostic Information from Karyotype, Platelet Count and Transfusion Status. J Clin Oncol. 2011; 29:392-397.
[6] Patriarca F, Bacigalupo A, Sperotto A, et al. Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Myelofibrosis: The 20-year Experience of the Gruppo Italiano Trapianto di Midollo Osseo (GITMO). Haematologica. 2008;93(10):1514-1522.
[7] Titmarsh G, Duncombe A, McMullin M, et al. How Common are Myeloproliferative Neoplasms? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Am J Hematol. 2014:1-7.
[8] Schafer AI. Molecular Basis of the Diagnosis and Treatment of Polycythemia Vera and Essential Thrombocythemia. Blood. 2006;107(11):4214-4222.
[9] Finazzi G and Barbui T. How I Treat Patients with Polycythemia Vera. Blood. 2007;109(12):5104-5111.
[10] Vannucchi AM. How I Treat Polycythemia Vera. Blood. 2014;124:3212-3220.
[11] Marchioli R, Finazzi G, Specchia G, et al. Cardiovascular Events and Intensity of Treatment in Polycythemia Vera. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:22-33.
[12] Alvarez-Larran A, Pereira A, Cervantes F, et al. Assessment and Prognostic Value of The European LeukemiaNet Criteria for Clinicohematologic Response, Resistance, and Intolerance to Hydroxyurea in Polycythemia Vera. Blood. 2012;119(6):1363-1369.
[13] Jakavi® (ruxolitinib) tablets: EU Summary of Product Characteristics. Novartis; Mar 2015.

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