Budesonide oral suspension (BOS) was safe and significantly outperformed placebo on validated measures of eosinophilic esophagitis, according to a first-in-kind, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, phase II trial presented in the March issue of Gastroenterology (doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.11.021 ).

The novel topical corticosteroid formulation yielded a significant histologic response and was associated with 3 fewer days of dysphagia over 2 weeks compared with placebo, reported Evan S. Dellon, MD, MPH, of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his associates. “There were no unexpected safety signals, and compliance with medication was high, suggesting that this formulation can be reliably used,” they wrote. Their findings earned BOS (SHP621) an FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation in June 2016. Although corticosteroids are first-line therapy for eosinophilic esophagitis, symptom response in other studies has been mixed, and the Food and Drug Administration had approved neither fluticasone nor budesonide for this disease, the researchers noted. They formulated BOS to adhere better to the esophageal mucosa in order to enhance esophageal delivery while decreasing unwanted pulmonary deposition.

For the study, they randomly assigned 93 patients aged 11-40 years with eosinophilic esophagitis to receive either placebo or 2 mg BOS twice daily. By week 12, Dysphagia Symptom Questionnaire scores had fallen by 14.3 points with BOS group and by 7.5 points with placebo (P = .001). Endoscopic severity scores dropped by 3.8 points with BOS and rose by 0.4 points with placebo (P less than .0001). Rates of histologic response were 39% and 3%, respectively (P less than .0001). Nonresponders averaged 10 kg more body weight than responders, and had been diagnosed about 21 months earlier (average disease duration, 46 months and 25 months, respectively).

Rates of reported adverse effects were similar with BOS (47%) and placebo (50%). Individual rates of nasopharyngitis, upper respiratory infections, and oropharyngeal pain also were comparable between groups, but one patient stopped BOS after developing dyspnea, nausea, and vomiting that were considered treatment related. Esophageal candidiasis developed in two BOS recipients – a rate similar rate to that in a prior study of BOS (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015 Jan 13. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2014.05.02 ), and a lower percentage than in other studies of topical steroids for eosinophilic esophagitis, according to the researchers. Morning cortisol levels were similar between groups, and there were no adverse laboratory effects, they added.

Patients in this trial had severe symptoms and histology and were highly compliant with treatment. They filled out at least 70% of their symptom diary, had at least 15 eosinophils per high-power frame from at least two esophageal levels on screening endoscopy, and reported at least 4 days of dysphagia during the second half of a 4-week, blinded placebo run-in period. Researchers should consider using these strict inclusion criteria in future trials of eosinophilic esophagitis, especially because previous studies have failed to show a treatment benefit for topical steroid therapy, the investigators noted.

Meritage Pharma, which is now a part of the Shire group, makes budesonide oral suspension and sponsored the study. Dr. Dellon disclosed ties to Meritage, Receptos, Regeneron, Aptalis, Banner Life Sciences, Novartis, and Roche. All five coinvestigators disclosed ties to industry, including Meritage, Shire, Receptos, Regeneron, and Biogen Idec.