Adverse immunostimulation caused by impurities: The dark side of biopharmaceuticals

Article date: July 2019

By: Joannes A. A. Reijers, Karen E. Malone, Jeffrey J. Bajramovic, Richard Verbeek, Jacobus Burggraaf, Matthijs Moerland in Volume 85, Issue 7, pages 1418-1426

Drug safety is an important issue, especially in the experimental phases of development. Adverse immunostimulation (AI) is sometimes encountered following treatment with biopharmaceuticals, which can be life‐threatening if it results in a severe systemic inflammatory reaction. Biopharmaceuticals that unexpectedly induce an inflammatory response still enter the clinic, even while meeting all regulatory requirements. Impurities (of microbial origin) in biopharmaceuticals are an often‐overlooked cause of AI. This demonstrates that the current guidelines for quality control and safety pharmacology testing are not flawless. Here, based on two case examples, several shortcomings of the guidelines are discussed. The most important of these are the lack of sensitivity for impurities, lack of testing for pyrogens other than endotoxin, and the use of insensitive animal species and biomarkers in preclinical investigations. Moreover, testing for the immunotoxicity of biopharmaceuticals is explicitly not recommended by the international guidelines. Publication of cases of AI is pivotal, both to increase awareness and to facilitate scientific discussions on how to prevent AI in the future.

DOI: 10.1111/bcp.13938

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