Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
What Is Nulojix?
Nulojix (belatacept) is a selective T-cell costimulation blocker indicated for the prevention of organ rejection in adult patients receiving a kidney transplant (not approved for other organ transplants). Nulojix is approved for use with other immunosuppressants (medications that suppress the immune system) and corticosteroids.
What Are Side Effects of Nulojix?
Common side effects of Nulojix include:
- low levels of iron in the blood (anemia)
- urinary tract infections
- electrolyte abnormalities
- low levels of white blood cells (leukopenia)
- back pain
- joint pain
- cold symptoms (runny or stuffy nose sneezing)
- sleep problems (insomnia), or
- swelling in your hands or feet.
Tell your doctor if you have serious side effects of Nulojix including:
- pale skin,
- shortness of breath,
- rapid heart rate,
- trouble concentrating,
- chest tightness,
- trouble breathing,
- high potassium (slow heart rate, weak pulse, muscle weakness, tingly feeling),
- low potassium (confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort, muscle weakness or limp feeling),
- high blood sugar (increased thirst, increased urination, hunger, dry mouth, fruity breath odor, drowsiness, dry skin, blurred vision, weight loss), or
- dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure).
Dosage for Nulojix
Nulojix lyophilized powder for IV use is available in 250 mg per single-use vial. Nulojix is available in vials for IV infusion only and should be administered by a person trained in the procedure. The total infusion dose of Nulojix is based on the actual body weight of the patient at the time of transplantation.
What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Nulojix?
Nulojix may interact with "live" vaccines. Tell your doctor all medications and supplements you use and all vaccines you recently received.
Nulojix During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using Nulojix; it is unknown if it will harm a fetus. If you are pregnant, or if you are a man and your sexual partner is pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry. This is to track the outcome of the pregnancy and to evaluate any effects of Nulojix on the baby. It is unknown if Nulojix passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Breastfeeding while using Nulojix is not recommended.
Our Nulojix Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Belatacept can affect your immune system, and may cause certain white blood cells to grow out of control. Call your doctor right away if you have:
- fever, swollen glands, flu symptoms, night sweats;
- stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss;
- weakness on one side of your body, decreased vision, problems with speech or walking;
- memory problems, changes in your mental state;
- blood in your urine, burning when you urinate, little or no urination;
- tenderness around the transplanted kidney; or
- a new skin lesion, or a mole that has changed in size or color.
Also call your doctor at once if you have:
- low red blood cells (anemia)--pale skin, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath, cold hands and feet;
- high potassium--nausea, weakness, tingly feeling, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, loss of movement; or
- low potassium--leg cramps, constipation, irregular heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, increased thirst or urination, numbness or tingling, muscle weakness or limp feeling.
Common side effects may include:
- high or low potassium;
- increased blood pressure;
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation;
- kidney or bladder infection;
- fever, cough; or
- swelling in your legs or feet.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Nulojix (Belatacept)
The most serious adverse reactions reported with NULOJIX are:
- PTLD, predominantly CNS PTLD, and other malignancies [see BOXED WARNING and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
- Serious infections, including JC virus-associated PML and polyoma virus nephropathy [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]
Clinical Studies Experience
Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, the adverse reaction rates observed cannot be directly compared to rates in other trials and may not reflect the rates observed in clinical practice.
The data described below primarily derive from two randomized, active-controlled three-year trials of NULOJIX in de novo kidney transplant patients. In Study 1 and Study 2, NULOJIX was studied at the recommended dose and frequency [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION] in a total of 401 patients compared to a cyclosporine control regimen in a total of 405 patients. These two trials also included a total of 403 patients treated with a NULOJIX regimen of higher cumulative dose and more frequent dosing than recommended [see Clinical Studies]. All patients also received basiliximab induction, mycophenolate mofetil, and corticosteroids. Patients were treated and followed for three years.
CNS PTLD, PML, and other CNS infections were more frequently observed in association with a NULOJIX regimen of higher cumulative dose and more frequent dosing compared to the recommended regimen; therefore, administration of higher than the recommended doses and/or more frequent dosing of NULOJIX is not recommended [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION, Clinical Studies].
The average age of patients in Studies 1 and 2 in the NULOJIX recommended dose and cyclosporine control regimens was 49 years, ranging from 18 to 79 years. Approximately 70% of patients were male; 67% were white, 11% were black, and 22% other races. About 25% of patients were from the United States and 75% from other countries.
The most commonly reported adverse reactions occurring in ≥20% of patients treated with the recommended dose and frequency of NULOJIX were anemia, diarrhea, urinary tract infection, peripheral edema, constipation, hypertension, pyrexia, graft dysfunction, cough, nausea, vomiting, headache, hypokalemia, hyperkalemia, and leukopenia.
The proportion of patients who discontinued treatment due to adverse reactions was 13% for the recommended NULOJIX regimen and 19% for the cyclosporine control arm through three years of treatment. The most common adverse reactions leading to discontinuation in NULOJIX-treated patients were cytomegalovirus infection (1.5%) and complications of transplanted kidney (1.5%).
Information on selected significant adverse reactions observed during clinical trials is summarized below.
Post-Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disorder
Reported cases of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) up to 36 months post-transplant were obtained for NULOJIX by pooling both dosage regimens of NULOJIX in Studies 1 and 2 (804 patients) with data from a third study in kidney transplantation (Study 3, 145 patients) which evaluated two NULOJIX dosage regimens similar, but slightly different, from those of Studies 1 and 2 (see Table 2). The total number of NULOJIX patients from these three studies (949) was compared to the pooled cyclosporine control groups from all three studies (476 patients).
Among 401 patients in Studies 1 and 2 treated with the recommended regimen of NULOJIX and the 71 patients in Study 3 treated with a very similar (but non-identical) NULOJIX regimen, there were 5 cases of PTLD: 3 in EBV seropositive patients and 2 in EBV seronegative patients. Two of the 5 cases presented with CNS involvement.
Among the 477 patients in Studies 1, 2, and 3 treated with the NULOJIX regimen of higher cumulative dose and more frequent dosing than recommended, there were 8 cases of PTLD: 2 in EBV seropositive patients and 6 in EBV seronegative or serostatus unknown patients. Six of the 8 cases presented with CNS involvement. Therefore, administration of higher than the recommended doses or more frequent dosing of NULOJIX is not recommended [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
One of the 476 patients treated with cyclosporine developed PTLD, without CNS involvement.
All cases of PTLD reported up to 36 months post-transplant in NULOJIX-or cyclosporinetreated patients presented within 18 months of transplantation.
Overall, the rate of PTLD in 949 patients treated with any of the NULOJIX regimens was 9-fold higher in those who were EBV seronegative or EBV serostatus unknown (8/139) compared to those who were EBV seropositive (5/810 patients). Therefore NULOJIX is recommended for use only in patients who are EBV seropositive [see BOXED WARNING and CONTRAINDICATIONS].
Table 2: Summary of PTLD Reported in Studies 1, 2, and 3 Through Three Years of Treatment
|Trial||NULOJIX Non recommended Regimena
|NULOJIX Recommended Regimenb
|Non- CNS PTLD||1||2||1|
|Non- CNS PTLD||1|
|Non- CNS PTLD||1|
|Total (%)||2 (0.5)||5 (11.6)||1 (3.6)||3 (0.7)||2 (4.1)||0||0||1 (1.8)||0|
|a Regimen with higher cumulative dose and more frequent dosing than the recommended NULOJIX regimen.
b In Studies 1 and 2 the NULOJIX regimen is identical to the recommended regimen, but is slightly different in Study 3.
PTLD In EBV Seropositive Subpopulation
Among the 806 EBV seropositive patients with known CMV serostatus treated with either NULOJIX regimen in Studies 1, 2, and 3, 2% (4/210) of CMV seronegative patients developed PTLD compared to 0.2% (1/596) of CMV seropositive patients. Among the 404 EBV seropositive recipients treated with the recommended dosage regimen of NULOJIX, 3 PTLD cases were detected among 99 CMV seronegative patients (3%) and there was no case detected among 303 CMV seropositive patients. The clinical significance of CMV serology as a risk factor for PTLD remains to be determined; however, these findings should be considered when prescribing NULOJIX [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Malignancies, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer and PTLD, were reported in Study 1 and Study 2 in 3.5% (14/401) of patients treated with the recommended NULOJIX regimen and 3.7% (15/405) of patients treated with the cyclosporine control regimen. Non-melanoma skin cancer was reported in 1.5% (6/401) of patients treated with the recommended NULOJIX regimen and in 3.7% (15/405) of patients treated with cyclosporine [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy
Two fatal cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) have been reported among 1096 patients treated with a NULOJIX-containing regimen: 1 patient in clinical trials of kidney transplant (Studies 1, 2, and 3 described above) and 1 patient in a trial of liver transplant (trial of 250 patients). No cases of PML were reported in patients treated with the recommended NULOJIX regimen or the control regimen in these trials.
The kidney transplant recipient was treated with the NULOJIX regimen of higher cumulative dose and more frequent dosing than recommended, mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), and corticosteroids for two years. The liver transplant recipient was treated with 6 months of a NULOJIX dosage regimen that was more intensive than that studied in kidney transplant recipients, MMF at doses higher than the recommended dose, and corticosteroids [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Bacterial, Mycobacterial, Viral, And Fungal Infections
Adverse reactions of infectious etiology were reported based on clinical assessment by physicians. The causative organisms for these reactions are identified when provided by the physician. The overall number of infections, serious infections, and select infections with identified etiology reported in patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen or the cyclosporine control in Studies 1 and 2 are shown in Table 3. Fungal infections were reported in 18% of patients receiving NULOJIX compared to 22% receiving cyclosporine, primarily due to skin and mucocutaneous fungal infections. Tuberculosis and herpes infections were reported more frequently in patients receiving NULOJIX than cyclosporine. Of the patients who developed tuberculosis through three years, all but one NULOJIX patient lived in countries with a high prevalence of tuberculosis [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Table 3: Overall Infections and Select Infections with Identified Etiology by Treatment Group Following One and Three Years of Treatment in Studies 1 and 2a
|Up to Year 1||Up to Year 3b|
|NULOJIX Recommended Regimen
N=401 n (%)
N=405 n (%)
|NULOJIX Recommended Regimen
N=401 n (%)
N=405 n (%)
|All infectionsc||287 (72)||299 (74)||329 (82)||327 (81)|
|Serious infectionsd||98 (24)||113 (28)||144 (36)||157 (39)|
|CMV||44 (11)||52 (13)||53 (13)||56 (14)|
|Polyoma viruse||10 (3)||23 (6)||17 (4)||27 (7)|
|Herpesf||27 (7)||26 (6)||55 (14)||46 (11)|
|Tuberculosis||2 (1)||1 (<1)||6 (2)||1 (<1)|
|a Studies 1 and 2 were not designed to support comparative claims for NULOJIX for the adverse reactions reported in this table.
b Median exposure in days for pooled studies: 1203 for NULOJIX recommended regimen and 1163 for cyclosporine in Studies 1 and 2.
c All infections include bacterial, viral, fungal, and other organisms. For infectious adverse reactions, the causative organism is reported if specified by the physician in the clinical trials.
d A medically important event that may be life-threatening or result in death or hospitalization or prolongation of existing hospitalization. Infections not meeting these criteria are considered non-serious.
e BK virus-associated nephropathy was reported in 6 NULOJIX patients (4 of which resulted in graft loss) and 6 cyclosporine patients (none of which resulted in graft loss) by Year 3.
f Most herpes infections were non-serious and 1 led to treatment discontinuation.
Infections Reported In The CNS
Following three years of treatment in Studies 1 and 2, cryptococcal meningitis was reported in 1 patient out of 401 patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen (0.2%) and 1 patient out of the 405 treated with the cyclosporine control (0.2%).
Six patients out of the 403 who were treated with the NULOJIX regimen of higher cumulative dose and more frequent dosing than recommended in Studies 1 and 2 (1.5%) were reported to have developed CNS infections, including 2 cases of cryptococcal meningitis, 1 case of Chagas encephalitis with cryptococcal meningitis, 1 case of cerebral aspergillosis, 1 case of West Nile encephalitis, and 1 case of PML (discussed above).
There have been no reports of anaphylaxis or drug hypersensitivity in patients treated with NULOJIX in Studies 1 and 2 with up to three years of follow-up. However, milder infusion-related reactions within one hour of infusion were reported in 5% of patients treated with the recommended dose of NULOJIX, similar to the placebo rate. The most frequent reactions were hypotension and hypertension. A case of anaphylaxis was reported in the postmarketing experience [see ADVERSE REACTIONS].
At Month 1 after transplantation in Studies 1 and 2, the frequency of 2+ proteinuria on urine dipstick in patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen was 33% (130/390) and 28% (107/384) in patients treated with the cyclosporine control regimen. The frequency of 2+ proteinuria was similar between the two treatment groups between one and three years after transplantation (<10% in both studies). There were no differences in the occurrence of 3+ proteinuria (<4% in both studies) at any time point, and no patients experienced 4+ proteinuria. The clinical significance of this increase in early proteinuria is unknown.
Antibodies directed against the belatacept molecule were assessed in 398 patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen in Studies 1 and 2 (212 of these patients were treated for at least two years). Of the 372 patients with immunogenicity assessment at baseline (prior to receiving belatacept treatment), 29 patients tested positive for anti-belatacept antibodies; 13 of these patients had antibodies to the modified cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4). Anti-belatacept antibody titers did not increase during treatment in these 29 patients.
Eight (2%) patients developed antibodies during treatment with the NULOJIX recommended regimen. In the patients who developed antibodies during treatment, the median titer (by dilution method) was 8, with a range of 5 to 80. Of 56 patients who tested negative for antibodies during treatment and reassessed approximately 7 half-lives after discontinuation of NULOJIX, 1 tested antibody positive. Anti-belatacept antibody development was not associated with altered clearance of belatacept.
Samples from 6 patients with confirmed binding activity to the modified cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) region of the belatacept molecule were assessed by an in vitro bioassay for the presence of neutralizing antibodies. Three of these 6 patients tested positive for neutralizing antibodies. However, the development of neutralizing antibodies may be underreported due to lack of assay sensitivity.
The clinical impact of anti-belatacept antibodies (including neutralizing anti-belatacept antibodies) could not be determined in the studies.
The data reflect the percentage of patients whose test results were positive for antibodies to belatacept in specific assays. The observed incidence of antibody (including neutralizing antibody) positivity in an assay may be influenced by several factors including assay sensitivity and specificity, assay methodology, sample handling, timing of sample collection, concomitant medications, and underlying disease. For these reasons, comparison of the incidence of antibodies to belatacept with the incidence of antibodies to other products may be misleading.
New-Onset Diabetes After Transplantation
The incidence of new-onset diabetes after transplantation (NODAT) was defined in Studies 1 and 2 as use of an antidiabetic agent for ≥30 days or ≥2 fasting plasma glucose values ≥126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/L) post-transplantation. Of the patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen, 5% (14/304) developed NODAT by the end of one year compared to 10% (27/280) of patients on the cyclosporine control regimen. However, by the end of the third year, the cumulative incidence of NODAT was 8% (24/304) in patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen and 10% (29/280) in patients treated with the cyclosporine regimen.
Blood pressure and use of antihypertensive medications were reported in Studies 1 and 2. By Year 3, one or more antihypertensive medications were used in 85% of NULOJIX-treated patients and 92% of cyclosporine-treated patients. At one year after transplantation, systolic blood pressures were 8 mmHg lower and diastolic blood pressures were 3 mmHg lower in patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen compared to the cyclosporine control regimen. At three years after transplantation, systolic blood pressures were 6 mmHg lower and diastolic blood pressures were 3 mmHg lower in NULOJIX-treated patients compared to cyclosporine-treated patients. Hypertension was reported as an adverse reaction in 32% of NULOJIX-treated patients and 37% of cyclosporine-treated patients (see Table 4).
Mean values of total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides were reported in Studies 1 and 2. At one year after transplantation these values were 183 mg/dL, 50 mg/dL, 102 mg/dL, and 151 mg/dL, respectively, in 401 patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen and 196 mg/dL, 48 mg/dL, 108 mg/dL, and 195 mg/dL, respectively, in 405 patients treated with the cyclosporine control regimen. At three years after transplantation, the total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides were 176 mg/dL, 49 mg/dL, 100 mg/dL, and 141 mg/dL, respectively, in NULOJIX-treated patients compared to 193 mg/dL, 48 mg/dL, 106 mg/dL, and 180 mg/dL in cyclosporine-treated patients.
The clinical significance of the lower mean triglyceride values in NULOJIX-treated patients at one and three years is unknown.
Other Adverse Reactions
Adverse reactions that occurred at a frequency of ≥10% in patients treated with the NULOJIX recommended regimen or cyclosporine control regimen in Studies 1 and 2 through three years are summarized by preferred term in decreasing order of frequency within Table 4.
Table 4: Adverse Reactions Reported by ≥10% of Patients Treated with Either the NULOJIX Recommended Regimen or Control in Studies 1 and 2 Through Three Yearsa,b
|Adverse Reaction||NULOJIX Recommended Regimen
|Infections and Infestations|
|Urinary tract infection||37||36|
|Upper respiratory infection||15||16|
|Abdominal pain upper||9||10|
|Metabolism and Nutrition Disorders|
|Blood and Lymphatic System Disorders|
|Renal and Urinary Disorders|
|Renal tubular necrosis||9||13|
|Respiratory, Thoracic, and Mediastinal Disorders|
|Blood creatinine increased||15||20|
|Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders|
|Nervous System Disorders|
|Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue Disorders|
|a All randomized and transplanted patients in Studies 1 and 2.
b Studies 1 and 2 were not designed to support comparative claims for NULOJIX for the adverse reactions reported in this table.
Selected adverse reactions occurring in <10% from NULOJIX-treated patients in either regimen through three years in Studies 1 and 2 are listed below:
Immune System Disorders: Guillain-Barre syndrome
Infections and Infestations: see Table 3
Gastrointestinal Disorders: stomatitis, including aphthous stomatitis
Injury, Poisoning, and Procedural Complications: chronic allograft nephropathy, complications of transplanted kidney, including wound dehiscence, arteriovenous fistula thrombosis
Blood and Lymphatic System Disorders: neutropenia
Renal and Urinary Disorders: renal impairment, including acute renal failure, renal artery stenosis, urinary incontinence, hydronephrosis
Vascular Disorders: hematoma, lymphocele
Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders: musculoskeletal pain
Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue Disorders: alopecia, hyperhidrosis
Cardiac Disorders: atrial fibrillation
Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.
Immune System Disorder: Anaphylaxis
Spontaneous reports during the postmarketing experience included a case of anaphylaxis, which was observed in a kidney transplant patient whose belatacept therapy had been interrupted for two months during treatment of a systemic varicella infection. When belatacept therapy was resumed, within five minutes after the start of the belatacept infusion the patient developed a generalized rash, pruritus, hypotension, atrial fibrillation, respiratory distress, and syncope, requiring medical treatment. Another belatacept infusion was attempted one month later, but was terminated when the patient experienced more pronounced symptoms of anaphylaxis and required medical treatment.
Vascular Disorder: Venous Thrombosis Of The Renal Allograft
In postmarketing experience in de novo kidney transplant recipients, some with other predisposing risk factors for venous thrombosis of the renal allograft, venous thrombosis of the renal allograft has occurred when the initial dose of anti-thymocyte globulin, as immunosuppressive induction, was coadministered (at the same or nearly the same time) with the first dose of belatacept [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Long-Term Extension Studies
After completion of the 36-month studies, patients remaining on randomized therapy in Study 1 and Study 2 were eligible for enrollment in the long-term extension studies [see Clinical Studies]. No new adverse reactions were observed in the extension studies.
Mycophenolate Mofetil (MMF)
Monitor for a need to adjust concomitant mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) dosage when a patient's therapy is switched between cyclosporine and NULOJIX, as cyclosporine decreases mycophenolic acid (MPA) exposure by preventing enterohepatic recirculation of MPA while NULOJIX does not [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY]:
- A higher MMF dosage may be needed after switching from NULOJIX to cyclosporine, since this may result in lower MPA concentrations and increase the risk of graft rejection.
- A lower MMF dosage may be needed after switching from cyclosporine to NULOJIX, since this may result in higher MPA concentrations and increase the risk for adverse reactions related to MPA (review the Full Prescribing Information for MMF).
Cytochrome P450 Substrates
No dosage adjustments are needed for drugs metabolized via CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, CYP3A, and CYP2C19 when coadministered with NULOJIX [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].
Coadministration (at the same or nearly the same time) of anti-thymocyte globulin (or any other cell-depleting induction treatment) and belatacept in de novo kidney transplant recipients, especially those with other predisposing risk factors for venous thrombosis of the renal allograft, may pose a risk for venous thrombosis of the renal allograft [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Nulojix (Belatacept)
© Nulojix Patient Information is supplied by Cerner Multum, Inc. and Nulojix Consumer information is supplied by First Databank, Inc., used under license and subject to their respective copyrights.
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