The US Food and Drug Administration today announced labelling changes, including a Boxed Warning, to highlight the risks of life-threatening infections, including progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), with the use of Raptiva (efalizumab).

Raptiva works by suppressing the immune system to reduce psoriasis flare-ups, however by suppressing the body's natural defense system, it can also increase the risk of serious infections and malignancies in patients.

The labelling changes are based on the FDA's post-market surveillance. The FDA is also requiring the submission of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which will include a Medication Guide for patients and a timetable for assessment of the REMS. Raptiva is a once-weekly injection approved for adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis who are candidates for systemic (whole body) therapy or phototherapy to control their psoriasis.

The FDA's Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology, charged by the Agency with monitoring drugs once approved for the marketplace, has received reports of serious infections leading to hospitalizations, and deaths in some cases, in patients using Raptiva. The now-required Boxed Warning will highlight the risk of bacterial sepsis, viral meningitis, invasive fungal disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy and other opportunistic infections.

Additionally, Raptiva's label will be updated to include data from juvenile animal studies in mice (age equivalent to a 1-14 year old human). These data indicate a potential risk for the permanent suppression of the immune system with repeat administration of Raptiva in this age group. Raptiva is not approved for children under 18 years of age.

"As part of FDA's monitoring of the life-cycle of approved products, the agency received reports of serious infections in some patients taking Raptiva. These reports led to our decision to highlight these risks in the drugs labeling," said Janet Woodcock, the FDA's director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Doctors and other prescribers should carefully evaluate and weigh the risk/benefit profile of Raptiva for patients who would be more susceptible to these risks."