News from the FDA/CDC

FDA withdraws lymphoma drug approval after investigation


The Food and Drug Administration announced on June 1 it has withdrawn approval of the lymphoma drug umbralisib (Ukoniq) following an investigation into a “possible increased risk of death.”

Umbralisib had received accelerated approval in February 2021 to treat adults with relapsed or refractory marginal zone lymphoma following at least one prior therapy and those with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma who had received at least three prior therapies.

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But safety concerns began to emerge in the phase 3 UNITY-CLL trial, which evaluated the drug in a related cancer type: chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

Last February, the FDA said it was investigating a possible increased risk of death associated with umbralisib.

Five months later, the results are in.

“Updated findings from the UNITY-CLL clinical trial continued to show a possible increased risk of death in patients receiving Ukoniq. As a result, we determined the risks of treatment with Ukoniq outweigh its benefits,” the FDA wrote in a drug safety communication published June 1.

In April, the drug manufacturer, TG Therapeutics, announced it was voluntarily withdrawing umbralisib from the market for its approved uses in marginal zone lymphoma and follicular lymphoma.

The FDA’s safety notice includes instructions for physicians and patients. The FDA urges health care professionals to “stop prescribing Ukoniq and switch patients to alternative treatments” and to “inform patients currently taking Ukoniq of the increased risk of death seen in the clinical trial and advise them to stop taking the medicine.”

In special instances in which a patient may be benefiting from the drug, the company plans to make umbralisib available under expanded access.

The FDA also recommends that patients who discontinue taking the drug dispose of unused umbralisib using a drug take-back location, such as a pharmacy, or throwing it away in the household trash after placing it in a sealed bag mixed with dirt or cat litter and removing personal identification information.

A version of this article first appeared on

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