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To date, Remimazolam has been studied in more than 2,400 patients undergoing conscious sedation or general anesthesia.
Further details of trials with Remimazolam can be found on the websites operated by the National Institutes of Health at www.clinicaltrials.gov and other platforms such as the EU Clinical Trials Register at https://www.clinicaltrialsregister.eu or the Japanese clinical trials information site at www.clinicaltrials.jp.
Dose finding followed a rational development plan as all mammalian species use tissue esterases to metabolize remimazolam. Thus animal data could be predictive for human dosage. It is known that the tissue esterase system is highly conserved amongst all mammalian species including the human race. Thus remimazolam was a suitable candidate for a translational approach that had the potential to predict the doses that lead to sedation and loss of consciousness.
With a total of eight Phase I, two Phase II and three Phase III trials PAION deems the clinical development program for remimazolam in procedural sedation in the U.S. completed. In China, one Phase II and one Phase III trial have also been successfully completed.
The first in-human trial explored a broad range of doses from no effect to loss of consciousness (not wanted for procedural sedation but indicative for induction of general anesthesia). Based on this trial, the next set of trials covered a colonoscopy study in healthy volunteers and a Phase IIa study in upper GI endoscopy. These studies confirmed the need for an approximately 50% dose reduction in combination with opioids (colonoscopy) and were the basis for the Phase IIb study in colonoscopy patients. In this study, a fixed dose regime consisting of starting dose and top-ups was tested with the lowest of the starting doses which was selected for use in the Phase III program.
The first U.S. Phase III study was successfully completed in 2016, and the primary efficacy endpoint was achieved. The Phase III trial enrolled 461 patients at 13 U.S. sites and was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of remimazolam compared to placebo (with midazolam rescue) in patients undergoing proceduralist-administered sedation for colonoscopy. In addition, the study had an open-label midazolam arm.
The primary outcome measure was a composite endpoint defined as: no need for rescue medication, completion of the procedure and no more than 5 doses within any 15-minute window. The primary endpoint was reached in 91.3% of the patients in the remimazolam arm and 1.7% in the placebo (including midazolam rescue) arm.
Important secondary endpoints in the remimazolam arm showed a median time from start of medication to start of procedure of 4.0 minutes (placebo 19.5 minutes) and a mean time from end of procedure to return to full alertness of 7.2 minutes (placebo 21.3 minutes). Additionally, time from last dose to “back to normal” as reported by patients on remimazolam was 331 minutes (placebo 572 minutes).
There were no treatment-emergent serious adverse events in the trial. Hypotension was 44.3% with remimazolam and 47.5% with placebo and accounted for most of the adverse events in all study arms. Hypoxia occurred in 1.0% of patients given remimazolam, 3.4% in the placebo arm.
On the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test administered five minutes after reaching the fully alert status, the total raw score, delayed recall, memory retention, and recognition discrimination scores were all better with remimazolam compared to placebo.
Patient satisfaction was similar in all arms of the study.
The open-label midazolam patients showed a median time from start of medication to start of procedure of 19.0 minutes and a mean time from end of procedure to return to full alertness of 15.7 minutes. Midazolam patients took 553 minutes to be back to normal.
In addition to the above study, the U.S. Phase III program includes a second confirmatory, prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled multi-center trial with an open-label midazolam arm in 446 patients undergoing bronchoscopies.
The study was successfully completed in 2017, and the primary efficacy endpoint was achieved. The Phase III trial enrolled 446 patients at 15 U.S. sites and was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of remimazolam compared to placebo (with midazolam rescue medication) in procedural sedation in patients undergoing bronchoscopy.
The primary outcome measure was a composite endpoint defined as: no need for rescue medication, completion of the procedure and no more than 5 doses within any 15-minute window for remimazolam/placebo and no more than 3 doses within any 12-minute window for midazolam. The primary endpoint was reached in 82.5% of the patients treated in the remimazolam arm and 3.4% in the placebo arm (p-value of <0.0001). Important secondary endpoints included median time from start of medication to start of procedure (5.0 minutes in the remimazolam arm versus 17.0 minutes for placebo) and median time from end of procedure to return to full alertness (remimazolam 6.0 minutes versus placebo 14.0 minutes). Additionally, the patients’ subjective impression of time from last dose to “back to normal” was a median of 404 minutes for remimazolam versus 935 minutes for placebo.
In the open-label midazolam arm, procedural success was achieved in 34.8% of patients. Midazolam patients showed a median time from start of medication to start of procedure of 16.0 minutes and a median time from end of procedure to return to full alertness of 12.0 minutes. Additionally, time from last dose to “back to normal” as reported by patients on midazolam was a median of 479 minutes.
As part of the U.S. development program, also a safety study in ASA III/IV (American Society of Anesthesiologists classification) patients undergoing colonoscopy (American Society of Anesthesiologists classification) was performed which was successfully completed in 2017. The trial enrolled 79 patients and was designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of remimazolam compared to placebo (with midazolam ‘rescue’ sedation) in patients undergoing proceduralist-supervised sedation for colonoscopy. This study also included an open-label arm in which midazolam was dosed according to U.S. label. The trial confirmed remimazolam’s safety profile and tolerability shown in all previous studies in a more vulnerable patient population. Overall, remimazolam demonstrated good respiratory and cardiovascular stability as compared to placebo with midazolam rescue. No adverse events of concern were observed in either group. In addition, the efficacy and efficiency improvements were comparable to the two positive pivotal U.S. Phase III trials in colonoscopy and bronchoscopy patients. Success of the procedure (including no requirement for rescue medication and the application of not more than five doses in any 15-minute interval) was achieved in 84.4% of patients in the remimazolam arm and 0% in the placebo arm. Other relevant endpoints showed a median time from start of medication to start of procedure of 5.0 minutes for remimazolam (placebo: 18.5 minutes) and a median time from end of procedure to return to full alertness of 3.0 minutes (placebo: 5.0 minutes). By comparison, procedural success was achieved in 12.9% of the midazolam patients. Midazolam patients showed a median time from start of medication to start of procedure of 19.0 minutes and a median time from end of procedure to return to full alertness of 7.0 minutes.
Summary of headline data of the three Phase III studies:
Primary endpoint achieved
Time from start of medication to start of procedure
Time from end of procedure to fully alert
Time to back to normal
* not part of label claim
Based on the results of preclinical and Phase I studies and in consultation with the FDA, PAION conducted additional Phase I studies to further assess the abuse potential of remimazolam. Two aspects were being studied: if remimazolam could inappropriately be used as a knock-out cocktail in combination with alcohol and if it could be abused intranasally. In November 2017, the FDA informed PAION that it determines the abuse liability program conducted by PAION as sufficient to provide the necessary data regarding the abuse potential of remimazolam in humans. PAION therefore assumes the clinical development program for remimazolam in procedural sedation in the U.S. as completed.
In July 2018, PAION’s licensee Cosmo attended a pre-NDA meeting (NDA = New Drug Application) with the FDA for remimazolam for the indication procedural sedation together with PAION delegates.
Pre-NDA meetings with the FDA represent the final step during drug development before submission of an NDA. These meetings allow companies to discuss with the FDA the appropriateness of the content of their submission package as well as the approval pathway and the preferred label.During the pre-NDA meeting with the FDA, there was no indication that would prevent the submission of the market approval dossier as planned.
A total of six Phase I, three Phase II and four Phase III trials in general anesthesia have been completed. In the clinical program, specific attention was paid to hemodynamic stability, which addresses a current need in general anesthesia. Preclinical data had suggested and clinical data confirmed that a better hemodynamic stability can be reached with remimazolam than with propofol.
The Japanese program started with a comparative Phase I study building on PAION’s first human trial and showed an identical pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile. The next step was a continuous infusion Phase I study to define induction and maintenance doses for anesthesia. The doses for induction and maintenance identified as safe and effective in the Phase II study subsequently conducted were then used in the Japanese Phase III studies, which confirmed remimazolam’s efficacy and safety as a general anesthetic and its favorable hemodynamic profile compared to propofol.
In order to allow using the Japanese data for filing in the EU, the same induction and maintenance doses were used in the Phase II trial performed in Germany in 2014 as part of the European development program, delivering further evidence for a potentially beneficial hemodynamic profile of remimazolam. The primary efficacy endpoint for general anesthesia was achieved in 98% of patients in the remimazolam dose groups and 96% in the propofol/sevoflurane group demonstrating an excellent efficacy rate across all treatment groups. As expected, the onset and offset of action profile was comparable between all treatment groups, showing that remimazolam indeed shares the fast-acting sedative profile of propofol.
One of the key targets of this trial was to assess the hemodynamic stability during cardiac surgery with remimazolam when compared to propofol/sevoflurane, both of which are known to cause cardiac depression. The study evaluated a substantial number of parameters to analyse these effects. Remimazolam confirmed the improved hemodynamic stability that had already been shown in the Ono Phase III study.
Based on these positive data, a multi-national, multi-center, randomized, single-blind, propofol-controlled, confirmatory Phase III study in patients undergoing major cardiac surgery was started in the EU in August 2015. Due to the complex study design in cardiac surgery, the trial faced recruitment challenges. Despite intensive efforts to enhance patient recruitment, the trial proved to be difficult to implement in practice. Therefore, in February 2016, PAION decided to discontinue the trial in order to avoid a long and expensive study with the existing design. No drug-related serious adverse events were observed.
Subsequently, PAION evaluated how to resume the clinical development of remimazolam in the EU. In consultation with key opinion leaders in general anesthesia, PAION has successfully conducted a Phase I trial which served as a means to define key elements and sample size calculation for the planned Phase III trial. Based on the results of this study, subsequent simulations and scientific advice obtained from the European authority EMA for defining the new European Phase III program, PAION has started an EU Phase III clinical trial with remimazolam for the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia in July 2018.
The randomized, single-blind, propofol-controlled, confirmatory Phase III trial is expected to enroll approx. 500 ASA III/IV patients (American Society of Anesthesiologists classification III to IV) undergoing non-emergency surgery at more than 20 European trial centers. Patient recruitment is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
The primary objective of the trial is to demonstrate the non-inferiority of remimazolam compared to propofol for the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia during elective surgery. The key secondary objective is to show improved hemodynamic stability (avoidance of intraoperative drop of blood pressure and vasopressor usage) compared to propofol.
The trial was designed in consultation with EU key opinion leaders in general anesthesia. Based on Scientific Advice obtained from the EMA in January 2018, PAION expects that a positive Phase III trial in combination with previously completed clinical studies in Europe and Japan should be sufficient for filing for market approval for the indication of general anesthesia in the EU.
In November 2018, PAION’s licensee R-Pharm announced the successful completion of a Phase III trial in general anesthesia and PAION’s licensee Hana Pharm has successfully completed patient recruitment of a Phase III trial in general anesthesia in October 2018.
PAION’s former licensee in Japan, Ono, independently initiated a Phase II trial for sedation in intensive care units (ICUs). Higher than by Ono expected plasma concentrations of remimazolam were observed in isolated cases after long-term treatment as is known from similar substances, and Ono discontinued this exploratory trial in 2013. Patients were sedated successfully and no significant unexpected adverse events were reported.
The observed phenomenon of elevated remimazolam plasma concentrations was subsequently thoroughly investigated using a series of preclinical tests and pharmacokinetic models. None of these experiments was able to reproduce the findings or provide a mechanistic explanation for the elevated plasma concentrations. Further analysis has revealed that such pharmacokinetic deviations are common for utilization of sedatives like midazolam and propofol on the ICU and the most likely explanation is the underlying serious condition of patients presenting on the ICU. Further development of the program “ICU sedation” is part of the future remimazolam development plan which could be addressed after availability of required funds.
PAION’s product candidate (Remimazolam) is still in the development phase and is not approved for treating any disease in any country in the world currently. It can neither be prescribed nor acquired for therapeutic use.
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