COVID-19 May Be Severe in Cushing’s Patients

A young healthcare worker who contracted COVID-19 shortly after being diagnosed with Cushing’s disease was detailed in a case report from Japan.

While the woman was successfully treated for both conditions, Cushing’s may worsen a COVID-19 infection. Prompt treatment and multidisciplinary care is required for Cushing’s patients who get COVID-19, its researchers said.

The report, “Successful management of a patient with active Cushing’s disease complicated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia,” was published in Endocrine Journal.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, which results in abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (hypercortisolism). Since COVID-19 is still a fairly new disease, and Cushing’s is rare, there is scant data on how COVID-19 tends to affect Cushing’s patients.

In the report, researchers described the case of a 27-year-old Japanese female healthcare worker with active Cushing’s disease who contracted COVID-19.

The patient had a six-year-long history of amenorrhea (missed periods) and dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the body). She had also experienced weight gain, a rounding face, and acne.

After transferring to a new workplace, the woman visited a new gynecologist, who checked her hormonal status. Abnormal findings prompted a visit to the endocrinology department.

Clinical examination revealed features indicative of Cushing’s syndrome, such as a round face with acne, central obesity, and buffalo hump. Laboratory testing confirmed hypercortisolism, and MRI revealed a tumor in the patient’s pituitary gland.

She was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor, and treated with metyrapone, a medication that can decrease cortisol production in the body. Shortly thereafter, she had close contact with a patient she was helping to care for, who was infected with COVID-19 but not yet diagnosed.

A few days later, the woman experienced a fever, nausea, and headache. These persisted for a few days, and then she started having difficulty breathing. Imaging of her lungs revealed a fluid buildup (pneumonia), and a test for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — came back positive.

A week after symptoms developed, the patient required supplemental oxygen. Her condition worsened 10 days later, and laboratory tests were indicative of increased inflammation.

To control the patient’s Cushing’s disease, she was treated with increasing doses of metyrapone and similar medications to decrease cortisol production; she was also administered cortisol — this “block and replace” approach aims to maintain cortisol levels within the normal range.

The patient experienced metyrapone side effects that included stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, swelling, increased acne, and hypokalemia (low potassium levels).

She was given antiviral therapies (e.g., favipiravir) to help manage the COVID-19. Additional medications to prevent opportunistic fungal infections were also administered.

From the next day onward, her symptoms eased, and the woman was eventually discharged from the hospital. A month after being discharged, she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Surgery for the pituitary tumor was then again possible. Appropriate safeguards were put in place to protect the medical team caring for her from infection, during and after the surgery.

The patient didn’t have any noteworthy complications from the surgery, and her cortisol levels soon dropped to within normal limits. She was considered to be in remission.

Although broad conclusions cannot be reliably drawn from a single case, the researchers suggested that the patient’s underlying Cushing’s disease may have made her more susceptible to severe pneumonia due to COVID-19.

“Since hypercortisolism due to active Cushing’s disease may enhance the severity of COVID-19 infection, it is necessary to provide appropriate, multidisciplinary and prompt treatment,” the researchers wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2021/01/15/covid-19-may-be-severe-cushings-patients-case-report-suggests/?cn-reloaded=1

Patients With Cushing Have New Nonsurgical Treatment Option

Cushing syndrome, a rare endocrine disorder caused by abnormally excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol, has a new pharmaceutical treatment to treat cortisol overproduction.

Osilodrostat (Isturisa) is the first FDA approved drug who either can’t undergo pituitary gland surgery or have undergone the surgery but still have the disease. The oral tablet functions by blocking the enzyme responsible for cortisol synthesis, 11-beta-hydroxylase.

“Until now, patients in need of medications…have had few approved options, either with limited efficacy or with too many adverse effects. With this demonstrated effective oral treatment, we have a therapeutic option that will help address patients’ needs in this underserved patient population,” said Maria Fleseriu, MD, FACE, professor of medicine and neurological surgery and director of the Pituitary Center at Oregon Health Sciences University.

Cushing disease is caused by a pituitary tumor that releases too much of the hormone that stimulates cortisol production, adrenocorticotropin. This causes excessive levels of cortisol, a hormone responsible for helping to maintain blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, assist in memory formulation, and support fetus development during pregnancy.

The condition is most common among adults aged 30-50 and affects women 3 times more than men.

Cushing disease can lead to a number of medical issues including high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, blood clots in the arms and legs, bone loss and fractures, a weakened immune system, and depression. Patients with Cushing disease may also have thin arms and legs, a round red full face, increased fat around the neck, easy bruising, striae (purple stretch marks), or weak muscles.

Side effects of osilodrostat occurring in more than 20% of patients are adrenal insufficiency, headache, nausea, fatigue, and edema. Other side effects can include vomiting, hypocortisolism (low cortisol levels), QTc prolongation (heart rhythm condition), elevations in adrenal hormone precursors (inactive substance converted into hormone), and androgens (hormone that regulated male characteristics).

Osilodrostat’s safety and effectiveness was evaluated in a study consisting of 137 patients, of which about 75% were women. After a 24-week period, about half of patients had achieved normal cortisol levels; 71 successful cases then entered an 8-week, double-blind, randomized withdrawal study where 86% of patients receiving osilodrostat maintained normal cortisol levels, compared with 30% who were taking a placebo.

In January 2020, the European Commission also granted marketing authorization for osilodrostat.

From https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/patients-with-cushing-have-new-nonsurgical-treatment-option

FDA Approves New Treatment for Adults with Cushing’s Disease

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Isturisa (osilodrostat) oral tablets for adults with Cushing’s disease who either cannot undergo pituitary gland surgery or have undergone the surgery but still have the disease. Cushing’s disease is a rare disease in which the adrenal glands make too much of the cortisol hormone. Isturisa is the first FDA-approved drug to directly address this cortisol overproduction by blocking the enzyme known as 11-beta-hydroxylase and preventing cortisol synthesis.

“The FDA supports the development of safe and effective treatments for rare diseases, and this new therapy can help people with Cushing’s disease, a rare condition where excessive cortisol production puts them at risk for other medical issues,” said Mary Thanh Hai, M.D., acting director of the Office of Drug Evaluation II in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “By helping patients achieve normal cortisol levels, this medication is an important treatment option for adults with Cushing’s disease.”

Cushing’s disease is caused by a pituitary tumor that releases too much of a hormone called adrenocorticotropin, which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce an excessive amount of cortisol. The disease is most common among adults between the ages of 30 to 50, and it affects women three times more often than men. Cushing’s disease can cause significant health issues, such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, blood clots in the legs and lungs, bone loss and fractures, a weakened immune system and depression. Patients may have thin arms and legs, a round red full face, increased fat around the neck, easy bruising, striae (purple stretch marks) and weak muscles.

Isturisa’s safety and effectiveness for treating Cushing’s disease among adults was evaluated in a study of 137 adult patients (about three-quarters women) with a mean age of 41 years. The majority of patients either had undergone pituitary surgery that did not cure Cushing’s disease or were not surgical candidates. In the 24-week, single-arm, open-label period, all patients received a starting dose of 2 milligrams (mg) of Isturisa twice a day that could be increased every two weeks up to 30 mg twice a day. At the end of this 24-week period, about half of patients had cortisol levels within normal limits. After this point, 71 patients who did not need further dose increases and tolerated the drug for the last 12 weeks entered an eight-week, double-blind, randomized withdrawal study where they either received Isturisa or a placebo (inactive treatment). At the end of this withdrawal period, 86% of patients receiving Isturisa maintained cortisol levels within normal limits compared to 30% of patients taking the placebo.

The most common side effects reported in the clinical trial for Isturisa were adrenal insufficiency, headache, vomiting, nausea, fatigue and edema (swelling caused by fluid retention). Hypocortisolism (low cortisol levels), QTc prolongation (a heart rhythm condition) and elevations in adrenal hormone precursors (inactive substance converted into a hormone) and androgens (hormone that regulates male characteristics) may also occur in people taking Isturisa.

Isturisa is taken by mouth twice a day, in the morning and evening as directed by a health care provider. After treatment has started, a provider may re-evaluate dosage, depending upon the patient’s response.

Isturisa received Orphan Drug Designation, which is a special status granted to a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition.

The FDA granted the approval of Isturisa to Novartis.

Media Contact: Monique Richards, 240-402-3014
Consumer InquiriesEmail, 888-INFO-FDA

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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From https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fda-approves-new-treatment-for-adults-with-cushings-disease-301019293.html

Long-acting Signifor Has Similar Safety Profiles as Twice-daily Treatment in Cushing’s Patients, Trial Showed

A long-acting, once-a-month treatment of Signifor (pasireotide) normalized cortisol levels in 40% of patients with Cushing’s disease whose disease had recurred after surgery, or who were not candidates for surgery, according to new data from a Phase 3 trial.

The safety profiles of the once-monthly regimen proved to be similar to standard twice-daily Signifor treatments, researchers found.

The study, “Efficacy and safety of once-monthly pasireotide in Cushing’s disease: a 12 month clinical trial,” was published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Novartis‘ Signifor in its twice-daily injection formulation has already been approved for treating Cushing’s in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The 12-month, Phase 3 trial (NCT01374906) was conducted at 57 sites in 19 countries. The study included 150 patients with Cushing’s whose cortisol levels had risen or not dropped at all after surgery, or who were unable to undergo surgery.

Between Dec. 28, 2011, and Dec. 9, 2014, participants were randomized to receive either 10 mg or 30 mg of Signifor every four weeks, via an injection to the muscle. If, after four months of therapy, cortisol urinary levels (mUFC) were 50% greater than the upper normal limit, the dose could be increased from 10 mg to 30 mg, or from 30 mg to 40 mg. It could also be increased after seven, nine, or 12 months if the mUFC concentration was greater than normal.

The goal was to normalize average concentrations of free cortisol in the urine to less than or equal to the upper normal limit at month seven. It was met by 31 of the 74 patients in the 10 mg group (41.9%) and 31 of the 76 patients in the 30 mg group (40.8%).

The most common adverse events were hyperglycemia (high concentration of blood sugar), diarrhea, cholelithiasis (gall stones), diabetes, and nausea.

The researchers consider this treatment to be a good option for patients whose disease has returned after surgery, or who cannot undergo surgery. The long-lasting treatment schedule of one injection per month is more convenient for patients than the twice-daily subcutaneous injection, making it more likely that they would not discontinue treatment.

“Surgical resection of the causative pituitary adenoma is the first-line treatment of choice for most patients with Cushing’s disease, which leads to remission in greater than 75% of patients if done by an expert pituitary surgeon,” wrote Dr. Andre Lacroix, MD, a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Montreal teaching hospital, and colleagues.

“However, surgery is not always successful, and disease recurrence can occur several years after initial remission, while some patients refuse or are not candidates for surgery. As a result, many patients require additional treatment options.”

“Long-acting pasireotide normalized mUFC concentration in about 40% of patients with Cushing’s disease at month 7 and had a similar safety profile to that of twice-daily subcutaneous pasireotide,” the team wrote in the study.

“Long-acting pasireotide is an efficacious treatment option for some patients with Cushing’s disease who have persistent or recurrent disease after initial surgery or are not surgical candidates, and provides a convenient monthly administration schedule,” researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/10/31/long-acting-signifor-for-cushings-disease-has-similar-efficacy-and-safety-as-twice-daily-treatment/

Osilodrostat maintained cortisol control in Cushing’s syndrome

Osilodrostat, a drug that normalized cortisol in 89% of patients with Cushing’s syndrome who took it during a phase II study, continued to exert a sustained benefit during a 31-month extension phase.

In an intent-to-treat analysis, all of the 16 patients who entered the LINC-2 extension study responded well to the medication, with no lapse in cortisol control, Rosario Pivonello, MD, said at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

“We also saw significant improvements in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and decreases in fasting plasma glucose,” said Dr. Pivonello of the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. “Surprisingly, after 31 months, we also observed declines in body mass index and weight.”

Osilodrostat, made by Novartis, is an oral inhibitor of 11 beta–hydroxylase. The enzyme catalyzes the last step of cortisol synthesis in the adrenal cortex. The drug was granted orphan status in 2014 by the European Medicines Agency.

In the LINC-2 study, 19 patients took osilodrostat at an initial dose of either 4 mg/day or 10 mg/day, if baseline urinary-free cortisol exceeded three times the upper normal limit. The dose was escalated every 2 weeks to up to 60 mg/day, until cortisol levels were at or below the upper limit of normal. In this study, the main efficacy endpoint was normalization of cortisol, or at least a 50% decrease from baseline at weeks 10 and 22.

Overall response was 89%. Osilodrostat treatment reduced urinary-free cortisol in all patients, and 79% had normal cortisol levels at week 22. The most common adverse events were asthenia, adrenal insufficiency, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, nausea, and acne. New or worsening hirsutism and/or acne were reported among four female patients, all of whom had increased testosterone levels.

The LINC-2 extension study enrolled 16 patients from the phase II cohort, all of whom had responded to the medication. They were allowed to continue on their existing effective dose through the 31-month period.

Dr. Pivonello presented response curves that tracked cortisol levels from treatment initiation in the LINC-2 study. The median baseline cortisol level was about 1,500 nmol per 24 hours. By the fourth week of treatment, this had normalized in all of the patients who entered the extension phase. The response curve showed continued, stable cortisol suppression throughout the entire 31-month period.

Four patients dropped out during the course of the study. Dr. Pivonello didn’t discuss the reasons for these dropouts. He did break down the results by response, imputing the missing data from these four patients. In this analysis, the majority (87.5%) were fully controlled, with urinary-free cortisol in the normal range. The remainder were partially controlled, experiencing at least a 50% decrease in cortisol from their baseline levels. These responses were stable, with no patient experiencing loss of control over the follow-up period.

The 12 remaining patients are still taking the medication, and they experienced other clinical improvements as well. Systolic blood pressure decreased by a mean of 2.2% (from 130 mm Hg to 127 mm Hg). Diastolic blood pressure also improved, by 6% (from 85 mm Hg to 80 mm Hg).

Fasting plasma glucose dropped from a mean of 89 mg/dL to 82 mg/dL. Weight decreased from a mean of 84 kg to 74 kg, with a corresponding decrease in body mass index, from 29.6 kg/m2 to 26.2 kg/m2.

Serum aldosterone decreased along with cortisol, dropping from a mean of 168 pmol/L to just 19 pmol/L. Adrenocorticotropic hormone increased, as did 11-deoxycortisol, 11-deoxycorticosterone, and testosterone.

Pituitary tumor size was measured in six patients. It increased in three and decreased in three. Dr. Pivonello didn’t discuss why this might have occurred.

The most common adverse events were asthenia, adrenal insufficiency, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, nausea, and acne. These moderated over time in both number and severity.

However, there were eight serious adverse events among three patients, including prolonged Q-T interval on electrocardiogram, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, headache, noncardiac chest pain, symptoms related to pituitary tumor (two patients), and uncontrolled Cushing’s syndrome.

Two patients experienced hypokalemia. Six experienced mild events related to hypocortisolism.

Novartis is pursuing the drug with two placebo-controlled phase III studies (LINC-3 and LINC-4), Dr. Pivonello said. An additional phase II study is being conducted in Japan.

Dr. Pivonello has received consulting fees and honoraria from Novartis, which sponsored the study.

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