AbbVie Provides Update on VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax) Multiple Myeloma Program

Press Release
NORTH CHICAGO, Ill.March 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — AbbVie (NYSE: ABBV), a research-based global biopharmaceutical company, today announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed a partial clinical hold on all clinical trials evaluating venetoclax (VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO®) for the investigational treatment of multiple myeloma. The partial clinical hold follows a review of data from the ongoing Phase 3 BELLINI trial (M14-031), a study in relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma, in which a higher proportion of deaths was observed in the venetoclax arm compared to the control arm of the trial. As a result of this action, no new patients should be enrolled in any studies of venetoclax for multiple myeloma until a further analysis of the data is completed. Patients who are currently enrolled in studies and receiving benefit from the therapy may continue with treatment, after consultation with their physician.
This action does not impact any of the approved indications for venetoclax, such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and is limited to investigational clinical trials in multiple myeloma. AbbVie remains confident in the benefit/risk profile of venetoclax in those approved indications.
“We are committed to patient safety and are thoroughly analyzing the results observed in the BELLINI trial.  We will continue working with the FDA and worldwide regulatory agencies to determine appropriate next steps for the multiple myeloma program,” said Michael Severino, M.D., vice chairman and president, AbbVie.  “We will continue to further the research and development of venetoclax and other therapies with the potential to transform the standards of care in blood cancers.”
AbbVie has informed clinical trial investigators involved in the studies evaluating venetoclax for the treatment of multiple myeloma of the results and will work with them to proceed as appropriate and in the best interest of each patient who may be receiving benefit from venetoclax and who elects to continue receiving treatment. Additional analyses are ongoing, and data will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and/or presented at a future medical meeting.
Venetoclax is being developed by AbbVie and Roche. It is jointly commercialized by AbbVie and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, in the U.S. and by AbbVie outside of the U.S.
BELLINI is a multicenter, randomized, double blind study of bortezomib and dexamethasone in combination with either venetoclax or placebo in patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who have received 1 to 3 prior lines of therapy and are sensitive or naïve to proteasome inhibitors.The BELLINI study met its primary endpoint of progression-free survival (22.4 months vs. 11.5 months, hazard ratio [HR] 0.63, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.44-0.90) and demonstrated statistically significant improvements in overall response rate (82% vs. 68%) and very good partial response or better (59% vs. 36%) in the venetoclax arm compared to the control arm.
Patients should talk to their doctor immediately if they are receiving venetoclax for the treatment of multiple myeloma. For medical-related questions, please call: 1-800-633-9110.
The details of the FDA review of the Phase 3 BELLINI study included the following safety updates:

  • In a pre-planned analysis of the primary endpoint and ranked secondary endpoints, in the venetoclax arm 41 out of 194 (21.1%) deaths were observed, among which, 13 (6.7%) were treatment emergent (HR 2.03, 95% CI [1.042 – 3.945]). Of the 13 treatment-emergent deaths in the venetoclax arm, 8 were attributed by the investigator to an event of infection, and more than half were in the setting of refractory or progressive disease.
  • In the placebo arm 11 out of 97 (11.3%) deaths were observed, among which, 1 (1.0%) was treatment emergent (occurred less than 30 days after last dose of study drug).
  • The incidence of severe, grade 3-5 toxicity (86.5% vs. 87.5%, investigational vs. control arm) and serious adverse events (48.2% vs. 50.0%) was similar between the two arms. The incidence of infections (Infections and Infestation System Organ Class) was 79.8% in the investigational arm and 77.1% in the control arm. The incidence of pneumonia was 20.7% in the investigational arm and 15.6% in the placebo arm.
  • Serious adverse events of infection were reported in 28.0% of patients in the investigational arm and 27.1% in the control arm. Serious adverse events of pneumonia were reported in 14.0% of patients in the investigational arm and 12.5% of patients in the placebo arm. Frequent causes of death not related to disease progression identified in the venetoclax arm were: sepsis, pneumonia, and cardiac arrest.

Patients deriving benefit in all ongoing trials evaluating venetoclax in multiple myeloma can continue treatment, in agreement between the individual patient and physician.
About VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax)  
VENCLEXTA®/VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax) is a first-in-class medicine that selectively binds and inhibits the B-cell lymphoma-2 (BCL-2) protein. In some blood cancers, BCL-2 prevents cancer cells from undergoing their natural death or self-destruction process, called apoptosis. VENCLEXTA/VENCLYXTO targets the BCL-2 protein and works to help restore the process of apoptosis.2
VENCLEXTA/VENCLYXTO is being developed by AbbVie and Roche. It is jointly commercialized by AbbVie and Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, in the U.S. and by AbbVie outside of the U.S. Together, the companies are committed to BCL-2 research and to studying venetoclax in clinical trials across several blood and other cancers.
VENCLEXTA/VENCLYXTO is approved in more than 50 countries, including the U.S. Venetoclax is not approved by any regulatory authority, in any country for the treatment of multiple myeloma.  AbbVie, in collaboration with Roche, is currently working with regulatory agencies around the world to bring this medicine to additional eligible patients in need.
Uses and Important VENCLEXTA® (venetoclax) U.S. Safety Information2
VENCLEXTA is a prescription medicine used:

  • to treat adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), with or without 17p deletion, who have received at least one prior treatment.
  • in combination with azacitidine, or decitabine, or low-dose cytarabine to treat adults with newly-diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who:
    • are 75 years of age or older, or
    • have other medical conditions that prevent the use of standard chemotherapy.

It is not known if VENCLEXTA is safe and effective in children.
Important Safety Information
What is the most important information I should know about VENCLEXTA?
VENCLEXTA can cause serious side effects, including:
Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS). TLS is caused by the fast breakdown of cancer cells. TLS can cause kidney failure, the need for dialysis treatment, and may lead to death. Your healthcare provider will do tests to check your risk of getting TLS before you start taking VENCLEXTA. You will receive other medicines before starting and during treatment with VENCLEXTA to help reduce your risk of TLS. You may also need to receive intravenous (IV) fluids into your vein. Your healthcare provider will do blood tests to check for TLS when you first start treatment and during treatment with VENCLEXTA.
It is important to keep your appointments for blood tests. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of TLS during treatment with VENCLEXTA, including fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, confusion, shortness of breath, seizures, irregular heartbeat, dark or cloudy urine, unusual tiredness, or muscle or joint pain.
Drink plenty of water when taking VENCLEXTA to help reduce your risk of getting TLS. 
Drink 6 to 8 glasses (about 56 ounces total) of water each day, starting 2 days before your first dose, on the day of your first dose of VENCLEXTA, and each time your dose is increased.
Your healthcare provider may delay, decrease your dose, or stop treatment with VENCLEXTA if you have side effects.
Who should not take VENCLEXTA? 
Certain medicines must not be taken when you first start taking VENCLEXTA and while your dose is being slowly increased because of the risk of increased TLS. 

  • Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. VENCLEXTA and other medicines may affect each other, causing serious side effects.
  • Do not start new medicines during treatment with VENCLEXTA without first talking with your healthcare provider.

Before taking VENCLEXTA, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have kidney problems.
  • have problems with your body salts or electrolytes, such as potassium, phosphorus, or calcium.
  • have a history of high uric acid levels in your blood or gout.
  • are scheduled to receive a vaccine. You should not receive a “live vaccine” before, during, or after treatment with VENCLEXTA, until your healthcare provider tells you it is okay. If you are not sure about the type of immunization or vaccine, ask your healthcare provider. These vaccines may not be safe or may not work as well during treatment with VENCLEXTA.
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. VENCLEXTA may harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, your healthcare provider should do a pregnancy test before you start treatment with VENCLEXTA, and you should use effective birth control during treatment and for 30 days after the last dose of VENCLEXTA. If you become pregnant or think you are pregnant, tell your healthcare provider right away.
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if VENCLEXTA passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with VENCLEXTA.

What should I avoid while taking VENCLEXTA?
You should not drink grapefruit juice or eat grapefruit, Seville oranges (often used in marmalades), or starfruit while you are taking VENCLEXTA. These products may increase the amount of VENCLEXTA in your blood.
What are the possible side effects of VENCLEXTA?
VENCLEXTA can cause serious side effects, including:

  • Low white blood cell counts (neutropenia). Low white blood cell counts are common with VENCLEXTA, but can also be severe. Your healthcare provider will do blood tests to check your blood counts during treatment with VENCLEXTA. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have a fever or any signs of an infection during treatment with VENCLEXTA.

The most common side effects of VENCLEXTA when used in combination with rituximab in people with CLL include low white blood cell counts, diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infection, cough, tiredness, and nausea.
The most common side effects of VENCLEXTA when used alone in people with CLL/SLL include low white blood cell counts; diarrhea; nausea; upper respiratory tract infection; low red blood cell counts; tiredness; low platelet counts; muscle and joint pain; swelling of your arms, legs, hands, and feet; and cough.
The most common side effects of VENCLEXTA in combination with azacitidine, or decitabine, or low-dose cytarabine in people with AML include low white blood cell counts; nausea; diarrhea; low platelet counts; constipation; fever with low white blood cell counts; low red blood cell counts, infection in blood; rash; dizziness;  low blood pressure;  fever; swelling of your arms, legs, hands, and feet; vomiting; tiredness; shortness of breath; bleeding; infection in lung; stomach (abdominal) pain; pain in muscles or back; cough; and sore throat.
VENCLEXTA may cause fertility problems in males. This may affect your ability to father a child. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about fertility.
These are not all the possible side effects of VENCLEXTA. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
If you cannot afford your medication, contact: for assistance.
The full U.S. prescribing information, including Medication Guide, for VENCLEXTA can be found here. Globally, prescribing information varies; refer to the individual country product label for complete information.
Important VENCLYXTO® (venetoclax) EU Safety Information3
VENCLYXTO (venetoclax) Indication 
Venclyxto in combination with rituximab is indicated for the treatment of adult patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia(CLL) who have received at least one prior therapy.
Venclyxto monotherapy is indicated for the treatment of CLL:

  • in the presence of 17p deletion or TP53 mutation in adult patients who are unsuitable for or have failed a B-cell receptor pathway inhibitor, or
  • in the absence of 17p deletion or TP53 mutation in adult patients who have failed both chemo immunotherapy and a B-cell receptor pathway inhibitor.

Hypersensitivity to the active substance or to any of the excipients is contraindicated. Concomitant use of strong CYP3A inhibitors at initiation and during the dose-titration phase due to increased risk for tumor lysis syndrome (TLS). Concomitant use of preparations containing St. John’s wort as VENCLYXTO efficacy may be reduced.
Special Warnings & Precautions for Use
Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS), including fatal events, has occurred in patients with previously treated CLL with high tumor burden when treated with VENCLYXTO. VENCLYXTO poses a risk for TLS in the initial 5-week dose-titration phase. Changes in electrolytes consistent with TLS that require prompt management can occur as early as 6 to 8 hours following the first dose of VENCLYXTO and at each dose increase. Patients should be assessed for risk and should receive appropriate prophylaxis, monitoring, and management for TLS.
Neutropenia (grade 3 or 4) has been reported and complete blood counts should be monitored throughout the treatment period. Serious infections including events of sepsis with fatal outcome have been reported. Supportive measures including antimicrobials for any signs of infection should be considered.
Live vaccines should not be administered during treatment or thereafter until B-cell recovery.
Drug Interactions
CYP3A inhibitors may increase VENCLYXTO plasma concentrations. At initiation and dose-titration phase: Strong CYP3A inhibitors are contraindicated due to increased risk for TLS and moderate CYP3A inhibitors should be avoided. If moderate CYP3A inhibitors must be used, physicians should refer to the SmPC for dose adjustment recommendations. At steady daily dose: If moderate or strong CYP3A inhibitors must be used, physicians should refer to the SmPC for dose adjustment recommendations.
Avoid concomitant use of P-gp and BCRP inhibitors at initiation and during the dose titration phase.
CYP3A4 inducers may decrease VENCLYXTO plasma concentrations. Avoid coadministration with strong or moderate CYP3A inducers. These agents may decrease venetoclax plasma concentrations.
Co-administration of bile acid sequestrants with VENCLYXTO is not recommended as this may reduce the absorption of VENCLYXTO.
Adverse Reactions
The most commonly occurring adverse reactions (>=20%) of any grade in patients receiving venetoclax in the combination study with rituximab were neutropenia, diarrhea, and upper respiratory tract infection. In the monotherapy studies, the most common adverse reactions were neutropenia/neutrophil count decreased, diarrhea, nausea, anemia, fatigue, and upper respiratory tract infection.
The most frequently occurring serious adverse reactions (>=2%) in patients receiving venetoclax in combination with rituximab or as monotherapy were pneumonia, febrile neutropenia and TLS.
Discontinuation due to adverse reactions occurred in 16% of patients receiving venetoclax plus rituximab and 9% receiving venetoclax monotherapy. Dosage adjustments due to adverse reactions occurred in 15% of patients receiving venetoclax plus rituximab and 2% receiving venetoclax monotherapy. Dose interruptions occurred in 71% of patients treated with the combination of venetoclax and rituximab.
Specific Populations
Patients with reduced renal function (CrCl <80 mL/min) may require more intensive prophylaxis and monitoring to reduce the risk of TLS. Safety in patients with severe renal impairment (CrCl <30 mL/min) or on dialysis has not been established, and a recommended dose for these patients has not been determined. VENCLYXTO should be administered to patients with severe renal impairment only if the benefit outweighs the risk and patients should be monitored closely for signs of toxicity due to increased risk of TLS.
VENCLYXTO may cause embryo-fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Advise nursing women to discontinue breastfeeding during treatment.
This is not a complete summary of all safety information. See VENCLYXTO full summary of product characteristics (SmPC) at Globally, prescribing information varies; refer to the individual country product label for complete information.
About AbbVie in Oncology
At AbbVie, we strive to discover and develop medicines that deliver transformational improvements in cancer treatment by uniquely combining our deep knowledge in core areas of biology with cutting-edge technologies, and by working together with our partners – scientists, clinical experts, industry peers, advocates, and patients. We remain focused on delivering these transformative advances in treatment across some of the most debilitating and widespread cancers. We are also committed to exploring solutions to help patients obtain access to our cancer medicines. With the acquisitions of Pharmacyclics in 2015 and Stemcentrx in 2016, our research and development efforts, and through collaborations, AbbVie’s oncology portfolio now consists of marketed medicines and a pipeline containing multiple new molecules being evaluated worldwide in more than 200 clinical trials and more than 20 different tumor types. For more information, please visit
About AbbVie
AbbVie is a global, research and development-based biopharmaceutical company committed to developing innovative advanced therapies for some of the world’s most complex and critical conditions. The company’s mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to markedly improve treatments across four primary therapeutic areas: immunology, oncology, virology and neuroscience. In more than 75 countries, AbbVie employees are working every day to advance health solutions for people around the world. For more information about AbbVie, please visit us at Follow @abbvie on Twitter, FacebookLinkedIn or Instagram.
Forward-Looking Statements
Some statements in this news release are, or may be considered, forward-looking statements for purposes of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The words “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “project” and similar expressions, among others, generally identify forward-looking statements. AbbVie cautions that these forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, challenges to intellectual property, competition from other products, difficulties inherent in the research and development process, adverse litigation or government action, and changes to laws and regulations applicable to our industry. Additional information about the economic, competitive, governmental, technological and other factors that may affect AbbVie’s operations is set forth in Item 1A, “Risk Factors,” of AbbVie’s 2018 Annual Report on Form 10-K, which has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. AbbVie undertakes no obligation to release publicly any revisions to forward-looking statements as a result of subsequent events or developments, except as required by law.
1 (2018). NCT02755597: A study evaluating venetoclax (ABT-199) in multiple myeloma subjects who are receiving bortezomib and dexamethasone as standard therapy. Accessed March 2019.
2 VENCLEXTA (venetoclax) [Package Insert]. North Chicago, IL.: AbbVie Inc.
3 Summary of Product Characteristics for VENCLYXTO (venetoclax). Ludwigshafen, Germany: AbbVie Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG.


Global Media
Carlos Taveras
+ 1 (847) 938-3253
U.S. Media
Jack Hirschfield
+1 (224) 458-0943
Liz Shea
+1 (847) 935-2211

Tuba Khan

Tuba Khan is an Editor and Digital Marketing expert at PharmaShots. She is curious, creative, and passionate about recent updates and innovation in Lifesciences industry. She covers Pharma, Medical devices, Diagnostics and Digital health segment. Tuba also has an experience of digital and social media marketing and can run the campaign independently. She is also certified as a Digital marketer and social media marketer. She can be contacted on

Related post