European Commission Expands Approval of Bristol Myers Squibb’s Reblozyl® (luspatercept) to Include First-Line Treatment of Transfusion-Dependent Anemia in Adults with Lower-Risk Myelodysplastic Syndromes (LR-MDS)

On April 2, 2024 Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) reported that the European Commission (EC) has expanded approval of Reblozyl (luspatercept) to include the first-line treatment of adult patients with transfusion-dependent anemia due to very low, low and intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) (Press release, Bristol-Myers Squibb, APR 3, 2024, View Source [SID1234641720]). This approval of Reblozyl covers all EU member states.*

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"With this approval for Reblozyl as a first-line treatment for anemia in adults with lower-risk MDS, more patients in the EU will have the potential to become transfusion independent for longer periods of time compared to current options available," said Monica Shaw, M.D., senior vice president and head of European Markets, Bristol Myers Squibb. "This milestone underscores our ongoing commitment to developing new options for patients with disease-related anemia."

The approval is based on the pivotal Phase 3 COMMANDS study, in which Reblozyl demonstrated superior efficacy compared to epoetin alfa, an erythropoiesis stimulating agent, in the study’s primary endpoint of concurrent red blood cell transfusion independence and hemoglobin increase. Safety results were consistent with previous MDS studies and were in line with expected symptoms in this patient population. Reblozyl is also approved in the United States and Japan for the first-line treatment of anemia associated with lower-risk MDS.

"In the treatment of lower-risk MDS, few patients experience a lasting response to erythroid stimulating agents, leaving a critical need for more effective treatment options to address the burden of their anemia," said Matteo Giovanni Della Porta, M.D., study investigator and head of Leukemia Unit at Humanitas Cancer Center in Milan, Italy. "Results from the COMMANDS study underscore the clinical value of Reblozyl as an initial treatment for anemia in patients with low- to intermediate-risk MDS, and this approval represents a significant milestone towards improving treatment practice and offering better outcomes for patients."

*Centralized Marketing Authorization does not include approval in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).


COMMANDS (NCT03682536) is a Phase 3, open-label, randomized study evaluating the efficacy and safety of Reblozyl versus epoetin alfa for the treatment of anemia due to very low-, low- or intermediate-risk (IPSS-R) myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) in patients who are red blood cell (RBC) transfusion dependent and were erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA)-naïve.

The primary endpoint evaluated in this study is RBC transfusion independence (RBC-TI) for 12 weeks with a mean hemoglobin (Hb) increase ≥1.5 g/dL. Key secondary endpoints include erythroid response (HI-E) of at least 8 weeks during weeks 1-24 of the study, RBC-TI ≥12 weeks and RBC-TI for 24 weeks. Eligible patients were ≥18 years old with lower-risk MDS who require transfusions. Patients were randomized 1:1 to receive subcutaneous Reblozyl (starting dose 1.0 mg/kg, titration up to 1.75 mg/kg) once every 3 weeks or epoetin alfa (starting dose 450 IU/kg, titration up to 1050 IU/kg) weekly for ≥24 weeks.

At the time of the primary analysis (March 31, 2023), 363 patients were randomized 1:1 to Reblozyl and epoetin alfa. Results from the primary analysis of the intent to treat (ITT) population showed:

60.4% (n=110) of patients receiving Reblozyl vs. 34.8% (n=63) of patients receiving epoetin alfa achieved the primary endpoint of RBC-TI of at least 12 weeks with concurrent mean Hb increase of at least 1.5 g/dL within the first 24 weeks (p<0.0001).
HI-E increase of at least 8 weeks was achieved by 74.2% (n=135) of Reblozyl patients vs. 53% (n=96) of epoetin alfa patients (p<0.0001).
RBC-TI of at least 12 weeks was achieved by 68.1% (n=124) of Reblozyl patients vs. 48.6% (n=88) of epoetin alfa patients (p<0.0001).
Duration of response was 128.1 weeks (108.3-NE) for Reblozyl in patients who achieved TI for at least 12 weeks (achieved weeks 1-24) compared to 89.7 weeks (55.9-157.3) for epoetin alfa (Hazard Ratio [HR]: 0.534; 95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 0.330-0.864, p=0.0096).
Safety results were consistent with previous MDS studies, and progression to acute myeloid leukemia and total deaths were similar between both arms of the study. The most common treatment-emergent adverse events in at least 10% of patients were diarrhea, fatigue, COVID-19, hypertension, dyspnea, nausea, peripheral edema, asthenia, dizziness, anemia, back pain and headache. Rates of reported fatigue and asthenia were shown to decrease over time.

About MDS

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of closely related blood cancers characterized by ineffective production of healthy red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells and platelets, which can lead to anemia and frequent or severe infections. People with MDS who develop anemia often require blood transfusions to increase the number of healthy RBCs in circulation. Frequent transfusions are associated with an increased risk of iron overload, transfusion reactions and infections. Patients who become RBC transfusion-dependent have a significantly shorter overall survival than those who are not dependent on transfusions, partially due to iron overload or to more severe bone marrow disease than in non-transfusion dependent patients.

About Reblozyl (luspatercept)

REBLOZYL, a first-in-class therapeutic option, promotes expansion and maturation of late-stage red blood cells in animal models. Reblozyl is being developed and commercialized through a global collaboration and North American co-promotion with Merck following Merck’s acquisition of Acceleron Pharma, Inc. in November 2021.

E.U. Indications:

REBLOZYL is indicated in the E.U. for the treatment of:

adult patients with transfusion-dependent anaemia due to very low, low and intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).
adult patients with anaemia associated with transfusion-dependent and non-transfusion-dependent beta-thalassaemia.
A European Summary of Product Characteristics for REBLOZYL is available from the European Medicines Agency website at

U.S. Indications:

REBLOZYL is indicated in the U.S. for the treatment of:

anemia in adult patients with beta thalassemia who require regular red blood cell (RBC) transfusions.
anemia without previous erythropoiesis stimulating agent use (ESA-naïve) in adult patients with very low- to intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) who may require regular red blood cell (RBC) transfusions.
anemia failing an erythropoiesis stimulating agent and requiring 2 or more red blood cell (RBC) units over 8 weeks in adult patients with very low- to intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndrome with ring sideroblasts (MDS-RS) or with myelodysplastic/myeloproliferative neoplasm with ring sideroblasts and thrombocytosis (MDS/MPN-RS-T).
REBLOZYL is not indicated for use as a substitute for RBC transfusions in patients who require immediate correction of anemia. In the U.S., REBLOZYL is not indicated for use in patients with non-transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia.

U.S. Important Safety Information:



In adult patients with beta thalassemia, thromboembolic events (TEE) were reported in 8/223 (3.6%) of REBLOZYL-treated patients. TEEs included deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolus, portal vein thrombosis, and ischemic stroke. Patients with known risk factors for thromboembolism (splenectomy or concomitant use of hormone replacement therapy) may be at further increased risk of thromboembolic conditions. Consider thromboprophylaxis in patients at increased risk of TEE. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of thromboembolic events and institute treatment promptly.


Hypertension was reported in 11.4% (63/554) of REBLOZYL-treated patients. Across clinical studies, the incidence of Grade 3 to 4 hypertension ranged from 2% to 9.6%. In patients with beta thalassemia with normal baseline blood pressure, 13 (6.2%) patients developed systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥130 mm Hg and 33 (16.6%) patients developed diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥80 mm Hg. In ESA-refractory or -intolerant adult patients with MDS with normal baseline blood pressure, 26 (30%) patients developed SBP ≥130 mm Hg and 23 (16%) patients developed DBP ≥80 mm Hg. In ESA-naïve adult patients with MDS with normal baseline blood pressure, 23 (36%) patients developed SBP ≥140 mm Hg and 11 (6%) patients developed DBP ≥80 mm Hg. Monitor blood pressure prior to each administration. Manage new or exacerbations of preexisting hypertension using anti-hypertensive agents.

Extramedullary Hematopoietic (EMH) Masses

In adult patients with transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia, EMH masses were observed in 3.2% of REBLOZYL-treated patients, with spinal cord compression symptoms due to EMH masses occurring in 1.9% of patients (BELIEVE and REBLOZYL long-term follow-up study).

In a study of adult patients with non-transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia, a higher incidence of EMH masses was observed in 6.3% of REBLOZYL-treated patients vs. 2% of placebo-treated patients in the double-blind phase of the study, with spinal cord compression due to EMH masses occurring in 1 patient with a prior history of EMH. REBLOZYL is not indicated for use in patients with non-transfusion-dependent beta thalassemia.

Possible risk factors for the development of EMH masses in patients with beta thalassemia include history of EMH masses, splenectomy, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, or low baseline hemoglobin (<8.5 g/dL). Signs and symptoms may vary depending on the anatomical location. Monitor patients with beta thalassemia at initiation and during treatment for symptoms and signs or complications resulting from the EMH masses and treat according to clinical guidelines. Discontinue treatment with REBLOZYL in case of serious complications due to EMH masses. Avoid use of REBLOZYL in patients requiring treatment to control the growth of EMH masses.

Embryo-Fetal Toxicity

REBLOZYL may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. REBLOZYL caused increased post-implantation loss, decreased litter size, and an increased incidence of skeletal variations in pregnant rat and rabbit studies. Advise pregnant women of the potential risk to a fetus. Advise females of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 3 months after the final dose.



Serious adverse reactions occurred in 3.6% of patients on REBLOZYL. Serious adverse reactions occurring in 1% of patients included cerebrovascular accident and deep vein thrombosis. A fatal adverse reaction occurred in 1 patient treated with REBLOZYL who died due to an unconfirmed case of acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Most common adverse reactions (at least 10% for REBLOZYL and 1% more than placebo) were headache (26% vs 24%), bone pain (20% vs 8%), arthralgia (19% vs 12%), fatigue (14% vs 13%), cough (14% vs 11%), abdominal pain (14% vs 12%), diarrhea (12% vs 10%) and dizziness (11% vs 5%).

ESA-naïve adult patients with Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Grade ≥3 (≥2%) adverse reactions included hypertension and dyspnea.

The most common (≥10%) all-grade adverse reactions included diarrhea, fatigue, hypertension, peripheral edema, nausea, and dyspnea.

ESA-refractory or -intolerant adult patients with Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Grade ≥3 (≥2%) adverse reactions included fatigue, hypertension, syncope and musculoskeletal pain. A fatal adverse reaction occurred in 5 (2.1%) patients.

The most common (≥10%) adverse reactions included fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, hypersensitivity reactions, hypertension, headache, upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, and urinary tract infection.


It is not known whether REBLOZYL is excreted into human milk or absorbed systemically after ingestion by a nursing infant. REBLOZYL was detected in milk of lactating rats. When a drug is present in animal milk, it is likely that the drug will be present in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk, and because of the unknown effects of REBLOZYL in infants, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue treatment. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in the breastfed child, breastfeeding is not recommended during treatment and for 3 months after the last dose.


Abuse: Abuse of REBLOZYL may be seen in athletes for the effects on erythropoiesis. Misuse of drugs that increase erythropoiesis, such as REBLOZYL, by healthy persons may lead to polycythemia, which may be associated with life-threatening cardiovascular complications.

Please see accompanying U.S. Full Prescribing Information for REBLOZYL.