Repository Corticotropin Injection (H.P. Acthar Gel)

Number: 0762

Policy

Aetna considers repository corticotropin (H.P. Acthar® Gel) medically necessary for West syndrome (infantile spasms) in infants and children under 2 years of age. 

Aetna considers repository corticotropin not medically necessary for diagnostic testing of adrenocortical function because it has not been shown to be superior to cosyntropin for this purpose.

Aetna considers repository corticotropin not medically necessary for corticosteroid-responsive conditions because it has not been proven to be more effective than corticosteroids for these indications.

Aetna considers repository corticotropin experimental and investigational for all other indications including the following (not an all-inclusive list) because its effectiveness for these indications has not been established:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Birdshot choroiditis
  • Idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (e.g., dermatomyositis and polymyositis)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Optic neuritis
  • Nephrotic syndrome (including focal segmental glomerulo-sclerosis, idiopathic membranous nephropathy, IgA nephropathy, membrano-proliferative glomerulo-nephritis, and monoclonal diffuse proliferative glomerulo-nephritis)
  • Pulmonary sarcoidosis
  • Neurosarcoidosis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Uveitis (including panuveitis and posterior uveitis)

Note: The labeling of H.P Acthar gel states that, although drug dependence does not occur, sudden withdrawal of repository corticotropin gel after prolonged use may lead to adrenal insufficiency or recurrent symptoms which make it difficult to stop the treatment. It may be necessary to taper the dose and increase the injection interval to gradually discontinue the medication (see Appendix).

Background

Repository corticotropin injection (H.P. Acthar® Gel) (Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Union City, CA) is a highly purified sterile preparation of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in 16% gelatin to provide a prolonged release after intramuscular or subcutaneous injection. Repository corticotropin injection is a natural product derived from a bovine or porcine source of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, and a number of weakly androgenic substances.  The release of ACTH is modulated by the nervous system via the corticotropin regulatory hormone released from the hypothalamus and by a negative corticosteroid feedback mechanism.  Elevated plasma cortisol levels suppress ACTH release.

Repository corticotropin injection was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1952 for a broad range of corticosteroid-responsive conditions including rheumatic, collagen, dermatologic, allergic states, ophthalmic, respiratory and edematous states.  Current labeled indications include multiple sclerosis, rheumatic disorders, collagen diseases, dermatologic diseases, allergic states, ophthalmologic diseases, respiratory diseases, and edematous states.  In addition, the FDA approved the use of repository corticotropin injection for treatment of infantile spasms in infants and children under 2 years of age. 

There are a lack of clinical studies comparing the effectiveness of ACTH gel to corticosteroids in corticosteroid-responsive conditions. In addition, there is no reliable evidence of the effectiveness of ACTH gel in persons who have failed to respond to corticosteroids.  Also, because of uncertainties in the effect of ACTH gel on the magnitude of endogenous cortisol production, ACTH gel has the potential for inducing significant adverse effects. 

Repository corticotropin should be used in the lowest dose for the shortest period of time to accomplish the therapeutic goal.  Adverse effects with ACTH are potentially life threatening problems that include depression of the immune system and modified response to infection leading to overwhelming sepsis.  Minor side effects include behavioral changes especially irritability, changes in appetite, weight gain and alteration in sleep patterns. 

Repository corticotropin has the potential for inducing significant adverse effects that are not reversible. Chronic administration of more the 40 units daily may be associated with uncontrollable adverse effects.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone is a natural product derived from a bovine or porcine source and is administered as an intramuscular or subcutaneous injection.  However, in the United Kingdom, with the existing concerns surrounding bovine spongiform encephalopathy, ACTH has been withdrawn from the market.  Tetracosactide is a synthetic alternative to ACTH and displays the same physiological properties as ACTH.  In Europe and Japan synthetic ACTH is usually available, while in the United States natural ACTH derivatives are normally used. 

Repository corticotropin is contraindicated in patients with scleroderma, osteoporosis, systemic funcal infections, ocular herpes simplex, recent surgery, history of or the presence of a peptic ulcer, congestive heart failure, hypertension, or sensitivity to proteins of porcine origin. It is also contraindicated in the treatment of primary adrenal insufficiency, hypercortisolism, or any condition associated with these disorders.

Bomback et al (2011) reported on a retrospective case series of 21 patients with nephrotic syndrome treated with ACTH gel, including 11 patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy, 4 patients with membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, 1 patient with focal glomerulosclerosis, 1 patient with minimal change disease, 1 patient with IgA nephropathy, 1 patient with class V systemic lupus erythematosis glomerulonephritis, 1 patient with monoclonal diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis, and 1 patient with unbiopsied nephrotic syndrome.  Given the small number of patients and the observational nature of this study, no formal statistical analyses were performed.  Four patients achieved complete remission, and 7 patients achieved partial remission.  Five patients reported steroid-like adverse effects.  The authors stated that results of the study should be interpreted cautiously due to its limitations, including its retrospective nature, lack of randomization, lack of comparison or control group, and short duration of follow-up.  The authors stated that this retrospective data analysis suggests that further studies are warranted to evaluate ACTH gel in the treatment of nephrotic syndrome.

Bomback et al (2012) conducted an open-label prospective study of ACTH gel in resistant glomerular diseases.  Fifteen subjects with resistant glomerular diseases were treated with ACTH gel, including 5 subjects with idiopathic membranous nephropathy, 2 subjects with minimal change disease, 3 subjects with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, and 5 subjects with IGA nephropathy.  Subjects were treated with ACTH gel for 24 weeks, dosed at 40 units twice-weekly subcutaneously for 2 weeks, then 80 units twic- weekly subcutaneously afterward.  Given the small number of subjects and the pilot design of the study, no formal statistical analysis of results was performed.  As a grouip, the 5 subjects with membranous nephropathy went from a pre-ACTH median proteinuria of 3.80 mg/g to a post-ACTH median proteinuria of 3.79 mg/g.  Two of the 5 subjects with membranous nephropathy achieved partial remission over the 6-month course of ACTH therapy.  As a group, the 5 subjects with minimal change disease or focal segmental glomerulo-sclerosis (FSGS) went from a pre-ACTH median proteinuria of 1.96 mg/g to a post-ACTH median proteinuria of 1.93 mg/g.  One subject with minimal change disease and one subject with FSGS achieved partial remission of proteinuria during ACTH therapy.  As a group, the 5 subjects with IgA nephropathy went from a pre-ACTH median proteinuria of 1.59 mg/g to a post-ACTH median proteinuria of 0.85 mg/g.  Three subjects with IgA nephropathy showed significant reductions in proteinuria to remission levels during the treatment period.  Three subjects discontinued therapy early due to adverse events.  Two subjects with diet-controlled diabetes had worsened glycemic control prompting initiation of oral hypoglycemic therapy.  One subject complained of weight gain, Cushingoid faces, increased blood pressure, and worsening kidney function; the subject had experienced similar side effects with prednisone in the past.  The authors stated that the data from this study are limited by the small subject sample, the lack of control group, and the relatively short-term follow-up.  The authors stated that these data support further investigations of ACTH for patients with resistant glomerular diseases.

Thompson et al (1989) reported on a randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical study comparing the efficacy of intravenous methylprednisolone to intramuscular ACTH gel in the treatment of acute relapse in 61 patients with multiple sclerosis.  Subjects randomized to methylprednisolone received 1 gram IV methylprednisolone daily for 3 days and 14 days of intramuscular placebo, and subjects randomized to ACTH gel received IV placebo daily for 3 days and at the same time a reducing course of intramuscular ACTH over 14 days, consisting of 80 units for 7 days, 40 units for 4 days, and 20 units for 3 days.  Of the 61 subjects, 5 failed to complete the study, 2 on ACTH and 3 on methylprednisolone.  The authors reported that there was a marked improvement in both groups over the course of the study, but no differences between groups in either the rate of recovery or final outcome in acute relapse.  The authors noted that side effects in the methylprednisolone group were less frequent than in the ACTH group.  The authors stated that giving a 3-day course of intravenous treatment rather than 14 days of intramuscular injections "has obvious advantages in terms of both patient comfort and medical resources."

Levine (2012) reported on a retrospective review of 3 patients with dermatomyositis and 2 patients with polymyositis who were treated with ACTH gel and who experienced a disease exacerbation and either failed or were unable to tolerate the side effects of previous therapy with steroids, intravenous immunoglobulins, and steroid-sparing drugs.  Patients received ACTH gel subcutaneous injections of 80 U (1 ml) twice-weekly (4 patients) or once-weekly (1 patient) over the course of 12 weeks for short-term treatment of symptom exacerbations.  Manual muscle testing using the Medical Research Council scale was assessed at baseline and at 3 months.  The investigator reported that improvement was seen in all patients, including improved muscle strength, decreased pain, and resolution of skin involvement. The investigator stated that all patients tolerated the treatment well, and no significant side effects occurred.  The author concluded that these anecdotal reports would suggest consideration of ACTH gel as a therapeutic option, and that further investigation is warranted.

Thorpe (1969) reported on the use of ACTH in 6 patients with temporal arteritis/polymyalgia rheumatica syndrome.  Patients were treated over a period of 2 to 6 months.  Although no standardized objective clinical outcome measures were reported, the author reported that "all patients responded well to the regimen" and that 2 of the 6 patients remained on steroid therapy.  The author stated that 3 patients had fluid retention requiring diuretic therapy, 2 patients had dyspepsia.  One patient developed a febrile urinary tract infection and died.  The author stated that a long-term study is warranted.

Simsarian et al (2011) performed a small, prospective, randomized pilot study to examine the efficacy and safety of, and patient satisfaction with, a short (5-day) self-administered Acthar dosing protocol for exacerbations of multiple sclerosis, and to compare the subcutaneous and intramuscular routes of administration.  Patients for this study were recruited from an outpatient treatment clinic.  Each patient self-administered natural Acthar gel 80 U/day by subcutaneous or intramuscular injection for 5 consecutive days and was evaluated at baseline and on days 7 and 14.  Patient feedback was collected using the Patient Global Impression of Change (PGI-C, the primary efficacy measure), a patient global visual analog scale, the Expanded Disability Status Scale, a timed walk, the Nine-hole Peg Test, and the Clinical Global Impression of Change. Of the 20 enrolled patients (mean age 39.5 years), 19 completed the study.  On day 14, 61.1 % of patients (11 of 18 with day 14 scores) were treatment responders, and rated their condition as "very much improved" or "much improved" on the PGI-C.  The intramuscular group had numerically more responders, but there was no significant difference in the proportion of responders between the intramuscular and subcutaneous groups at day 14 (p = 0.3).  The intramuscular route of injection was associated with more injection site pain than the subcutaneous route.  The authors concluded that a shorter 5-day course of intramuscular or subcutaneous ACTH gel may improve symptoms associated with acute exacerbations of multiple sclerosis.  The authors noted that larger studies with standard of care controls are needed to confirm whether this shorter course of intramuscular or subcutaneous Acthar gel is effective and could potentially be substituted for the standard 14-day treatment.

Tumlin et al (2013) reported on an open-label pilot trial of Acthar gel in patients with advanced diabetic nephropathy.  A total of 23 patients with diabetic nephropathy were randomized to daily subcutaneous (SQ) injections of 16 or 32 units of Acthar gel for 6 months.  The primary end-point was the percentage of patients achieving a complete remission (less than 300 mg/24 hours) within 6 months.  Exploratory end-points included the percentage of partial (50 % reduction) remissions, changes in Cr, and urinary cytokine markers.  After 6 months of Acthar gel therapy, 8 of 14 (57 %) patients achieved a complete (n = 1) or partial (n = 7) remission.  In the low-dose ACTH gel group (16 units), urinary protein fell from 6,709 + 953 to 2,224 + 489 mg/24 hrs (p < 0.001).  In contrast, 2 of 6 patients in the 32-unit group achieved partial remission, but aggregate proteinuria (5,324 + 751 to 5,154 + 853 mg/24 hours) did not change.  Urinary VEGF increased from 388 to 1,346 pg/mg urinary creatinine (p < 0.02) in the low-dose group but remained unchanged in the high-dose group.

Noting that the data on using Acthar gel to treat idiopathic FSGS are limited, Hogan et al (2013) reported on 24 patients with nephrotic syndrome from idiopathic FSGS who were treated with ACTH gel at 2 academic medical centers between 2009 and 2012, either as part of investigator-initiated pilot studies (n = 16) or by prescription for treatment-resistant FSGS (n = 8).  The primary outcome was remission of proteinuria.  The median dose of ACTH was 80 units injected subcutaneously twice-weekly.  Treatment durations were not uniform.  Twenty-two patients had received immunosuppression (mean, 2.2 medications) before ACTH therapy.  Six patients had steroid-dependent and 15 had steroid-resistant FSGS.  At the time of ACTH initiation, the median serum creatinine (interquartile range) was 2.0 (1.1 to 2.7) mg/dl, estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was 36 (28 to 78) ml/min per 1.73 m(2), and urine protein-to-creatinine ratio was 4,595 (2,200 to 8,020) mg/g.  At the end of ACTH therapy, 7 of 24 patients (29 %) experienced  remission (n = 2 complete remissions, n = 5 partial remissions).  All remitters had steroid-resistant (n = 5) or steroid-dependent (n = 2) FSGS.  Two responders relapsed during the follow-up period (mean ± SD, 70 ± 31 weeks).  Adverse events occurred in 21 of 24 patients, including 1 episode of new-onset diabetes that resolved after stopping ACTH and 2 episodes of AKI.

Repository corticotropin injection has been used as a treatment for West syndrome (also known as infantile spasms), a rare disorder that includes a peculiar type of epileptic seizure and an electroencephalogram (EEG) finding called "hypsarrhythmia".  Onset usually occurs within the first year of life and peaks at 3 to 5 months.  It is sometimes associated with cerebral palsy or Down's syndrome but little is known about the exact pathophysiology of the condition.  While the seizures generally resolve by the age of 3 years, the long-term prognosis is poor.  Psychomotor delay is severe in approximately 70 % of the cases and many will develop other forms of severe epilepsy.  Few studies have evaluated the long-term outcome of West syndrome, but it is generally agreed that earlier control might improve prognosis (Hancock and Osborne, 2002).

Individuals diagnosed with infantile spasm are typically treated with a variety of agents; however, treatment has proven to be problematic since it is generally refractory to conventional anti-epileptic drugs.  Academy of Neurology and the Child Neurology Society (2004) on the treatment of infantile spasms, repository corticotropin is effective for the short‐term treatment of infantile spasms and the resolution of hypsarrhythmia. While there is some evidence that supports the effectiveness of ACTH for the short-term treatment of infantile spasms and in resolution of hypsarrhythmia, the optimum treatment for infantile spasms has yet to be established. 

The FDA has approved H.P. Acthar Gel for treatment of infantile spasms in infants and children under 2 years of age (FDA, 2010).  An FDA committee (2010) concluded that there was substantial evidence of effectiveness for Acthar Gel as a treatment for infantile spasms.  This conclusion was based upon evidence from 1 randomized controlled trial (RCT) with confirmatory evidence.  The committee agreed that effectiveness has been shown in the cessation of spasms and amelioration of the EEG, but not in the prevention of other seizure types, improvement in long-term developmental outcomes, or any other outcomes.  According to the product labeling, the recommended regimen is a daily dose of 150 U/m2 (divided into twice-daily intra-muscular injections of 75 U/m2) administered over a 2-week period.  Dosing with H.P. Acthar Gel should then be gradually tapered over a 2-week period to avoid adrenal insufficiency.

In a retrospective, multi-center study, researchers from Japan reviewed the medical records of 138 patients with West syndrome who were treated with low dose synthetic ACTH.  The authors noted that at the end of ACTH therapy, excellent effect on seizures was noted in 106 (76 %) patients, good effect in 23 (17 %), and poor effect in 9 (7 %).  Initial effects on EEG were excellent in 53 (38 %) patients, good in 76 (55 %), and poor in 9 (7 %).  As for seizure prognosis at the time of follow-up, 51 of 99 (52 %) patients were seizure-free, whereas 48 (48 %) patients had seizures.  Mental outcome was normal in 6 of 98 (6 %) patients, mild mental retardation in 16 (16 %), moderate mental retardation in 26 (27 %), and severe mental retardation in 50 (51 %).  The initial effects of ACTH on seizures and long-term outcome were not dose dependent (daily dosage 0.005 to 0.032 mg/kg, 0.2 to 1.28 IU/kg; total dosage 0.1 to 0.87 mg/kg, 4 to 34.8 IU/kg).  The severity of adverse effects correlated with total dosage of ACTH, and the severity of brain volume loss due to ACTH correlated well with the daily dosage and total dosage of ACTH.  The authors concluded that low-dose synthetic ACTH therapy is as effective for the treatment of West syndrome as higher doses (Ito et al, 2002).

A Cochrane review on the treatment of infantile spasms (2002) compared the effects of single drugs used to treat infantile spasms in terms of long-term psychomotor development, subsequent epilepsy, control of the spasms and adverse effects.  A total of 14 RCTs with a total of 667 participants were included in the review and 9 different drugs were evaluated (vigabatrin, ACTH (7 different treatment regimes and different preparations), prednisone, hydrocortisone, nitrazepam, sodium valproate, sulthiame, methysergide and alpha-methylparatyrosine).  The review reported that overall, the methodology of the studies was poor due to ethical dilemmas such as giving placebo injections to children.  Findings from 2 small studies showed ACTH to be more efficacious than low-dose prednisone (2 mg/kg).  One study suggested that hormonal treatments (prednisolone or tetracosactide) might improve long-term developmental outcome compared with vigabatrin in patients who are not found to have an underlying cause for their infantile spasms.  One small study found vigabatrin to be more efficacious than hydrocortisone in stopping infantile spasms due to tuberous sclerosis.  Few studies considered psychomotor development or subsequent seizure rates as outcomes and none had long-term follow-up; few side effects or deaths were reported.  A clear statement on the optimum treatment for infantile spasms could not be made, however, the reviewers stated that
  1. hormonal treatment (i.e., ACTH, tetracosactide or high dose prednisolone) will resolve spasms faster than vigabatrin in more infants (but this may or may not translate into better long term outcome),
  2. if prednisone or vigabatrin are used, then high dosage is recommended,
  3. vigabatrin may be the treatment of choice in tuberous sclerosis but more research is required, and
  4. resolution of the EEG may be important but this has not been proven.
The authors concluded that further trials with larger numbers of participants and longer follow-up are needed.  

This is consistent with Riikonen's review (2005) on best treatment practices of infantile spasms in Finland.  Riikonen stated that hormonal treatment is the most effective therapy in the short-term treatment of infantile spasms.  One study found large doses of prednisolone to be as effective as corticotrophin.  Vigabatrin is the treatment of choice for infants with tuberous sclerosis.  An earlier review by Riikonen (2004) reported that in an open, randomized, prospective study, the efficacy and relapse rates of ACTH and vigabatrin treatment did not differ significantly and that the high response rates in tuberous sclerosis complex were similar.  Both drugs had severe side effects.  In the long-term follow-up of 20 to 35 years, 1/3 of the patients died, the intellectual outcome of the remaining patients was normal or slightly subnormal, and 1/4 to 1/3 of the patients were seizure-free.  Riikonen stated that ACTH should be the first choice for treatment of infantile spasms since the side effects of ACTH, unlike those of vigabatrin, are well- known, treatable, and reversible; however, the author concluded that an open, prospective study to compare the efficacy, relapse rate, and long-term outcome of treatment with ACTH and vigabatrin is urgently needed.

The American Academy of Neurology and Child Neurology Society (Mackay et al, 2004) reviewed 159 articles to determine the current practice parameter on the medical treatment of infantile spasms.  Outcome measures included complete cessation of spasms, resolution of hypsarrhythmia, relapse rate, developmental outcome, and presence or absence of epilepsy or an epileptiform EEG.  The practice parameter concluded that
  1. ACTH is probably an effective agent in the short-term treatment of infantile spasms, but there is insufficient evidence to recommend the optimum dosage and duration of treatment,
  2.  vigabatrin is possibly effective for the short-term treatment of infantile spasm and is possibly also effective for children with tuberous sclerosis,
  3.  there is insufficient evidence to recommend oral corticosteroids,
  4. there is insufficient evidence to recommend any other treatment of infantile spasms, and
  5. there is insufficient evidence to conclude that successful treatment of infantile spasms improves the long-term prognosis.

Kivity et al (2004) evaluated the long-term cognitive and seizure outcomes of patients (n = 37) with cryptogenic infantile spasms treated within 1 month of onset with high-dose synthetic ACTH.  The patients received a standardized treatment regimen of high-dose tetracosactide depot, 1 mg IM every 48 hrs for 2 weeks, with a subsequent 8- to 10-week slow taper and followed by oral prednisone, 10 mg/day for a month, with a subsequent slow taper for 5 months or until the infant reached the age of 1 year, whichever came later.  Seizure outcomes were followed up prospectively.  Cognitive outcomes were determined after 6 to 21 years and analyzed in relation to treatment lag and pre-treatment regression.  Twenty-two infants were treated within 1 month of onset of infantile spasms, and 15 after 1 to 6.5 months.  Normal cognitive outcome was found in all 22 (100 %) patients of the early-treatment group, and in 40 % of the late-treatment group.  Normal cognitive outcome was found in all 25 (100 %) patients who had no or only mild mental deterioration at presentation, including 4 in the late-treatment group but in only 3 of the 12 patients who had had marked or severe deterioration before treatment.  The authors reported that while early treatment of cryptogenic infantile spasms with a high-dose ACTH protocol is associated with favorable long-term cognitive outcomes, further studies are needed on the optimal treatment regimen for this disorder.

In 2009, the U.S. FDA approved another drug, the oral medication, Sabril (Vigabatrin) as monotherapy for pediatric patients 1 month to 2 years of age with infantile spasms for whom the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks of vision loss. There are no other FDA approved drugs in the United States at this time for infantile spasms.

The United Kingdom Infantile Spasms Study (UKISS), a multi-center randomized trial, compared hormonal treatment with vigabatrin on developmental and epilepsy outcome to age 14 months.  Infants were randomly assigned hormonal treatment (n = 55) or vigabatrin (n = 52) and were followed-up until clinical assessment at 12 to 14 months of age.  Neurodevelopment was assessed with the Vineland adaptive behavior scales (VABS) at 14 months of age on an intention-to-treat basis.  Of 107 infants enrolled, 5 died and 101 survivors reached both follow-up assessments.  Absence of spasms at final clinical assessment was similar in each treatment group and mean VABS score did not differ significantly. In infants with no identified underlying etiology, the mean VABS score was higher in those allocated hormonal treatment than in those allocated vigabatrin.  Results indicated that hormonal treatment controls spasms better than does vigabatrin initially, but not at 12 to 14 months of age.  The authors concluded that better initial control of spasms by hormonal treatment in those with no identified underlying etiology may lead to improved developmental outcome (Lux et al, 2005).

Cohen‐Sadan (2009) reported on a long‐term follow‐up of children with West syndrome treated with ACTH or vigabatrin. The medical records of 28 normal MRI West syndrome cases were reviewed for seizure development and cognitive outcome in relation to treatment type and timing. The authors concluded that for West syndrome "ACTH and vigabatrin appear to be equally effective in the short term if treatment is administered within one month of symptom onset. On long‐term follow‐up, early ACTH treatment appeared to yield a better outcome than early vigabatrin or late ACTH treatment in terms of both cognition and seizure development."

The consensus opinion from 39 U.S. physicians specializing in pediatric epilepsy reported that as initial therapy for infantile spasms caused by tuberous sclerosis, vigabatrin and ACTH were considered first-line treatments; however, vigabatrin was considered the treatment of choice.  As initial therapy for infantile spasms that are symptomatic in etiology, ACTH and topiramate were considered first-line treatments, however, ACTH was considered the treatment of choice (Wheless et al, 2005).  The consensus opinion from 42 European physicians specializing in pediatric epilepsy reported that as initial therapy for infantile spasms caused by tuberous sclerosis, viagabatrin was considered the treatment of choice.  As initial therapy for infantile spasms that are symptomatic in etiology, vigabatrin was also considered the treatment of choice, with ACTH and prednisone other first-line options (Wheless et al, 2007).

An UpToDate review on “Treatment of recurrent and resistant dermatomyositis and polymyositis in adults” (Miller and Rudnicki, 2014) states that “Case reports have suggested that corticotropin gel, a form of adrenocorticotropic hormone, may be beneficial in patients with exacerbations of DM or PM despite ongoing therapy with other immunosuppressive agents.  Additional evidence is required to ascertain the short- and long-term benefits and risks of this agent compared with other therapies for inflammatory myopathies before its use in routine clinical practice can be recommended”.

Available evidence regarding the effectiveness of Acthar gel for the treatment of FSGS consists of uncontrolled case series involving small numbers of subjects and short-term follow-up (Bomback et al, 2011; Bomback et al, 2012; Hogan et al, 2013).  It is unclear from these reports whether overlapping patients were included in these studies, as all 3 studies involved an investigator group from Bomback et al (2011 and 2012 studies by Bomback et al; and the 2013 study by Hogan in which Bomback was a co-author).

In a pilot study, Hladunewich et al (2014) hypothesized that Acthar® gel would improve symptoms of the nephrotic syndrome in patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy.  A total of 20 patients received a subcutaneous dose of 40 or 80 IU twice- weekly.  Changes in proteinuria, albumin, cholesterol profile, estimated GFR and serum anti-PLA2R antibodies were assessed at baseline and in response to treatment along with tolerance and safety.  Baseline characteristics included mean proteinuria (9.1 ± 3.4 g/day), albumin (2.7 ± 0.8 g/dL), estimated GFR (77 ± 30 ml/min) along with elevated total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.  By 12 months of follow-up, there was a significant improvement in proteinuria in the entire cohort, decreasing to 3.87 ± 4.24 g/day (p < 0.001) with significant improvements in serum albumin, total and LDL cholesterol.  A greater than 50 % decrease in proteinuria was noted in 65 % of the patients with a trend toward better outcomes among patients who received greater cumulative doses.  No significant adverse effects were documented.  Clearing of serum anti-PLA2R antibodies prior to or in parallel with proteinuria improvement was noted in some, but not all patients.  The authors concluded that the Acthar® gel is a potential therapy for nephrotic syndrome secondary to idiopathic membranous nephropathy that deserves further study.

Furthermore, an UpToDate review on “Treatment and prognosis of IgA nephropathy” (Cattran and Appel, 2014) does not mention the use of repository corticotropin/Acthar as a therapeutic option.

Decker et al (2014) stated that Acthar is a highly purified repository gel preparation of ACTH1-39, a melanocortin peptide that can bind and activate specific receptors expressed on a range of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)-relevant target cells and tissues.  These researchers evaluated the effects of Acthar in a mouse model of SLE, using an F1 hybrid of the New Zealand Black and New Zealand White strains (NZB/W F1).  Twenty-eight week old NZB/W F1 mice with established autoimmune disease were treated with Acthar, placebo gel (placebo), or prednisolone and monitored for 19 weeks.  Outcomes assessed included disease severity (severe proteinuria, greater than or equal to 20 % body weight loss, or prostration), measurement of serial serum autoantibody titers, terminal spleen immuno-phenotyping, and evaluation of renal histopathology.  Acthar treatment was linked with evidence of altered B cell differentiation and development, manifested by a significant reduction in splenic B cell follicular and germinal center cells, and decreased levels of circulating total and anti-double-stranded DNA (IgM, IgG, and IgG2a) autoantibodies as compared with placebo.  Additionally, Acthar treatment resulted in a significant decrease of proteinuria, reduced renal lymphocyte infiltration, and attenuation of glomerular immune complex deposition.  The authors concluded that these data suggested that Acthar diminished pathogenic autoimmune responses in the spleen, peripheral blood, and kidney of NZB/W F1 mice.  This was the first pre-clinical evidence demonstrating Acthar's potential immunomodulatory activity and efficacy in a murine model of SLE.

In a single-site, open-label trial, Fiechtner and Montroy (2014) evaluated the effectiveness of Acthar® gel for reducing active SLE severity among patients receiving underlying conventional maintenance therapies.  A total of 10 women (mean age of 49 yrs, disease duration of 7 yrs, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index-2000 [SLEDAI-2 K] = 10) currently on maintenance self-administered ACTH(1-39) gel 1 ml (80 U/ml) for 7 to 15 days and were assessed weekly for 28 days.  Outcome measures included Physician and Patient Global Assessments, SLEDAI-2 K, Lupus Quality of Life scale, Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue (FACIT-Fatigue) scale, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein.  Student's t-test compared data obtained at days 7, 14, and 28 with those from baseline.  The primary end-point of SLEDAI-2 K improvement was reached at all observation times (p < 0.05) and statistically significant improvements were observed for most other parameters.  No treatment-related serious or unexpected adverse events were observed.  The authors concluded that these findings revealed that among SLE patients in need of therapeutic alternatives, ACTH(1-39) gel may provide significant disease activity reduction.  These preliminary findings from a small, uncontrolled trial need to be validated by well-designed studies.

Arrat et al (2015) noted that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease with a complex etiology and pathology that makes the development of new therapies difficult. ACTH has neurotrophic and myotrophic effects, but has not been tested in an ALS mouse model. The G93A-SOD1 mouse model of ALS was used to test the ability of this drug to delay ALS-like symptoms. These researchers showed that within a specific dose range, ACTH significantly postponed the disease onset and paralysis in the mouse model. The authors found that ACTH significantly reduced the levels of soluble SOD1 in the spinal cord and CNS tissues of G93A-SOD1 treated mice as well as cultured fibroblasts.

Cusick et al (2015) examined the effects of Acthar in an animal model of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), using SJL/J mice sensitized with myelin peptide. All animal studies were reviewed and approved by the University of Utah Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and conducted in accordance with the guidelines prepared by the Committee on Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, Institute of Laboratory Animals Resources, National Research Council. Mice injected with Acthar to treat the second attack had a significantly lower mean clinical score during relapse and a significantly reduced cumulative disease burden compared to placebo gel-treated mice. Furthermore, Acthar treatment ameliorated inflammation/demyelination in the spinal cord and markedly suppressed ex-vivo myelin peptide-induced CD4(+) T cell proliferation.

Madan (2015) stated that FSGS causes scarring or sclerosis of glomeruli that act as tiny filters in the kidneys, damage to which results in diminished ability to properly filter blood, resulting in the urinary loss of plasma proteins and subsequent proteinuria. These researchers presented the case of a 60-year old white female (with a history of intermittent proteinuria) who was referred by her primary care physician for renal dysfunction. Biopsy confirmed FSGS and she was treated with an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor. She also had rheumatoid arthritis (RA) but no active synovitis and was maintained on prednisone 5 mg/day. She also complained of worsening vision in her right eye and was diagnosed with optic neuritis (ON). She remained stable for about 8 months when examination indicated FSGS relapse, and she reported painful RA flares. She was treated with Acthar gel (40 mg bi-weekly) for 6 months, after which proteinuria and urine protein-to-creatinine ratio decreased to about 50 %. Her ON improved, and she reported that she had fewer RA flares and pain improved by 50 %. This case of confirmed FSGS showed an improved response to treatment with Acthar Gel for FSGS with concomitant RA and ON. The authors concluded that this referral case was relevant to primary care practitioners who treat disorders that may be responsive to corticosteroid therapy. The anti-proteinuric effects and ancillary improvement in RA and ON symptoms during treatment with Acthar Gel were not entirely explained by its steroidogenic actions. ACTH is a bioactive peptide that, together with α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, exhibits biologic efficacy by modulating pro-inflammatory cytokines and subsequent leukocyte extravasation and may have autocrine/paracrine effects in joints. While Acthar Gel was primarily administered in this case to treat proteinuria, it also showed ancillary benefits in patients with concomitant inflammatory disease states. Well-designed studies are needed to ascertain the effectiveness of Acthar gel for the treatment of FSGS, optic neuritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathies (e.g., Dermatomyositis and Polymyositis)

Patel and colleagues (2016) stated that idiopathic inflammatory myopathies are a group of systemic autoimmune diseases that involve inflammation of skeletal muscle.  The 2 most common forms are dermatomyositis and polymyositis, the former of which entails a skin component.  There are few approved therapeutics available for treatment of this group of diseases and the 1st-line therapy is usually corticosteroid treatment.  Considering that a large proportion of patients do not respond to or cannot tolerate corticosteroids, additional treatments are needed.  There are 2nd-line therapies available, but many patients are also refractory to those options.  H.P. Acthar Gel (repository corticotropin injection [RCI]) is a melanocortin peptide that can induce steroid-dependent effects and steroid-independent effects.  These researchers presented a series of cases that involved the use of RCI in the management of dermatomyositis and polymyositis; RCI treatments resulted in improvement in 3 of 4 patients, despite failure with previous therapies.  The use of RCI did not exacerbate any co-morbidity and no significant changes in blood pressure, weight, or glycemic control were observed.  The authors concluded that these findings were encouraging and suggested that RCTs applying RCI to dermatomyositis and polymyositis are needed.

In an open-label, clinical trial, Aggarwal and colleagues (2018) evaluated the safety, efficacy, tolerability and steroid-sparing effect of RCI in refractory adult polymyositis (PM) and dermatomyositis (DM).  Adults with refractory PM and DM were enrolled by 2 centers.  Inclusion criteria included refractory disease defined as failing glucocorticoid and/or greater than or equal to 1 immunosuppressive agent, as well as active disease defined as significant muscle weakness and greater than 2 additional abnormal core set measures (CSMs) or a cutaneous 10 cm visual analog scale (VAS) score of greater than or equal to 3 cm and at least 3 other abnormal CSMs.  All patients received RCI of 80 units subcutaneously twice-weekly for 24 weeks.  The primary end-point was the International Myositis Assessment and Clinical Studies definition of improvement.  Secondary end-points included safety, tolerability, steroid-sparing as well as the 2016 American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism myositis response criteria (EULAR); 10 of the 11 enrolled subjects (6 DM, 4 PM) completed the study; 7 of 10 met the primary end-point of efficacy at a median of 8 weeks.  There was a significant decrease in prednisone dose from baseline to conclusion (18.5 (15.7) versus 2.3 (3.2); p < 0.01).  Most individual CSMs improved at week 24 compared with the baseline, with the muscle strength improving by greater than 10 % and the physician global by greater than 40 %; RCI was considered safe and tolerable.  No patient developed significant weight gain or an increase of hemoglobin A1c or Cushingoid features.  The authors concluded that treatment with RCI was effective in 70 % of patients, safe and tolerable, and led to a steroid dose reduction in patients with adult myositis refractory to glucocorticoid and traditional immunosuppressive drugs.  This was an open-label study with small sample size (n = 10); these preliminary findings need to be validated in well-designed studies.

Neurosarcoidosis

Baughman and colleagues (2015) stated that Acthar was reported as effective for the treatment of pulmonary sarcoidosis in the 1950s.  Use of drug waned due to cost and toxicity compared to prednisone.  Recent interest has re-emerged as an alternative to high dose oral glucocorticoids.  In a pilot study, chart review was performed on all advanced sarcoidosis patients seen at 2 centers who received at least 1 dose of Acthar gel therapy with at least 6 months of post-treatment follow-up.  In all cases prior sarcoidosis therapy and indications for use along with clinical outcome were noted.  All patients initially received 80 IU intramuscular or subcutaneous administration twice-weekly.  A total of 47 patients were treated with Acthar gel therapy during the study period, and 18 (37 %) discontinued drug within 6 months due to cost (4 patients), death (2 patients), or drug toxicity (11 patients), or non-compliance (1 patient).  Of the remaining 29 patients, 11 experienced objective improvement in 1 or more affected organs.  All but 2patients noted disease improvement or oral glucocorticoid reduction; 21 patients were treated for more than 6 months (median of 274 days); 19 patients were on prednisone at time of starting Acthar gel: 17 had their prednisone dosage reduced by more than 50 % and 1 patient discontinued cyclophosphamide therapy.  The authors concluded that in this group of advanced sarcoidosis patients, Acthar gel treatment for at least 3 months was associated with objective improvement in 1/3 of patients; 1/3 of patients were unable to take at least a 3-month of treatment.

The main drawback of this study was its retrospective design with no placebo control.  Other drawbacks included the lack of one specific end-point for treatment success; it was unclear whether the use of Acthar gel led to an overall reduction in glucocorticoid effect; and there were no standard criteria for initiation of Acthar gel as new therapy.  The authors stated that “The role of Acthar gel in the treatment of sarcoidosis remains uncertain and needs further study.  Additional studies on duration of effect after completing therapy and its impact on long-term endocrine outcomes such as lipid profiles and glucose metabolism are desperately needed”.

Pulmonary Sarcoidosis

Baughman and colleagues (2017) stated that the dose of RCI and need for a loading dose in sarcoidosis patients receiving chronic corticosteroids are unclear.  These researchers performed a single-blind, prospective study, comparing 2 doses of RCI in sarcoidosis.  Chronic pulmonary sarcoidosis patients receiving prednisone therapy with deterioration by 5 % in forced vital capacity (FVC) in the previous year were studied; RCI was administered subcutaneously at a loading dose of 80 units RCI for 10 days.  Patients were randomized at day 14 to receive either 40- or 80-unit RCI twice-weekly.  The dose of prednisone was modified by the clinician who was blinded to the patient's dosage of RCI.  A total of 16 patients completed the full 24 weeks of the study.  At week 24, there was a decrease in the dose of prednisone, and improvements in diffusion of lung of carbon monoxide (DLCO), King's Sarcoidosis Questionnaire health status and fatigue score.  There was no significant change in FVC % predicted.  For the PET scan, there was a significant fall in the standard uptake value (SUV) of the lung lesions.  Only 3/8 patients remained on 80 units RCI for full 24 weeks.  There was no significant difference in the response to therapy for those treated with 40- versus 80-unit RCI.  The authors concluded that repository corticotropin treatment was prednisone-sparing and associated with significant improvement in DLCO, PET scan, and patient-reported outcome measures.  A dose of 40-unit RCI twice-weekly was as effective as 80-unit RCI and was better tolerated.

This study had several drawbacks.  Many patients did not complete the proposed 10-day loading dose due to adverse events (AEs) reported by the patients.  While discontinuation of loading dose was part of the protocol, the high number of patients who did not complete all 10 days made it difficult to identify if there was any benefit from taking a loading dose.  The impression was that the loading dose added no benefit but enhanced toxicity.  For the maintenance phase of the study, the protocol was designed to allow patients halve their dosage of RCI.  By 24 weeks, only 2 patients were receiving 80 units RCI.  Thus, these researchers could not analyze the effect of 80-unit RCI on steroid sparing or lung function at week 24.  However, they had sufficient number of patients to compare 40 versus 80 units at 7 weeks.  Since there was no significant difference at 7 weeks, these investigators chose to analyze the effect of any dose of RCI on steroid sparing, lung function, or quality of life (QOL).  For the group, there were significant changes in some of these parameters.  The study was designed to examine the effect of RCI on toxicity and prednisone sparing.  Since there was no placebo group, the authors could not be sure that reduction in prednisone dose was not due to effect of repeat study visits and effort to reduce prednisone.  The reduction of prednisone dose may have also been due to stimulation of glucocorticoid release.  The small number of patients (n = 16) limited the ability to comment on the effect of RCI on pulmonary function.  Also the study was a single-blind study.  The authors noted that “The positive results of this study may help in identifying which patients may benefit from RCI.  In addition, the study may prove useful information for designing future trials comparing RCI to placebo”.

James and Baughman (2018) noted that treatment of sarcoidosis recommendations are often based on clinical experience and expert opinion.  However, there are an increasing number of studies which are providing evidence to support decisions regarding treatment.  Several studies have identified factors associated with increased risk for organ failure or death (“danger”).  There have been several studies focused on the role of treatment to improve QOL for the patient.  Sarcoidosis treatment often follows a progression, based on response.  Corticosteroids remain the initial treatment of choice for most patients; 2nd-line therapy includes cytotoxic agents.  Immuno-suppressives such as methotrexate, azathioprine, leflunomide, and mycophenolate have all been reported as effective in sarcoidosis.  Biologics and other agents are 3rd-line therapy.  The monoclonal antibodies directed against tumor necrosis factor (TNF) have been shown to be particularly effective for advanced disease.  Infliximab has been the most studied drug in this class.  Newer treatments, including repository corticotropin injection and rituximab have been reported as effective in some cases.

Furthermore, an UpToDate review on “Treatment of pulmonary sarcoidosis: Disease refractory to glucocorticoid therapy” (King, 2018) does not mention repository corticotropin as a therapeutic option.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Brown (2016) stated that although numerous therapeutic options are available for patients with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a need for effective and tolerable treatments remains for patients with refractory disease who have failed previous therapies and continue to experience tender and/or swollen joints, pain, and disease activity.  Repository corticotropin injection is believed to produce steroidogenic, steroid-independent, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects in patients with rheumatic disorders, such as PsA.  Limited literature exists on the use of RCI in patients with refractory PsA.  In a case-series study, this investigator provided information on the clinical features of patients with refractory PsA and their response to RCI.  A total of 9 patients treated with RCI for refractory PsA were retrospectively identified and included in the case series.  All 9 patients experienced at least transient improvements in their active skin and joint disease.  In some patients, it was necessary to titrate the RCI to an appropriate dose; RCI was used in some patients to bridge with another PsA therapy, such as apremilast or certolizumab; RCI was well-tolerated, but discontinued in 3 patients due to pre-existing conditions (hypertension and hyperglycemia).  The author concluded that RCI may be a safe and effective option for patients with refractory PsA who failed therapy with multiple previous treatments.  These preliminary findings need to be validated by well-designed studies.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

In an open-label, interventional, single-group study, Gillis and colleagues (2017) examined the safety and efficacy of using RCI injection as an adjunctive therapy in patients with RA refractory to at least 3 therapeutics with different mechanisms of action.  Patients received 80 U RCI twice-weekly via subcutaneous injection over 12 weeks.  Changes in the Ritchie-Camp Articular Index and health assessment questionnaire scores were monitored for changes from baseline measures.  A total of 8 patients were enrolled and consisted of 7 women and 1 man with an average age of 64.6 years and disease duration of 20.9 years.  Use of RCI resulted in significant improvement in swollen and tender joint counts.  The disease activity score 28 (DAS28) and the physician and patient VAS scores were significantly reduced at treatment week 12.  The reduction in health assessment questionnaire scores did not reach statistical significance after RCI treatment.  Once RCI therapy was discontinued, all improvements in DAS28, physician and patient VAS, and tender and swollen joint counts achieved during treatment were lost by the week 16 follow-up visit.  The authors concluded that while larger clinical trials are needed to further confirm the efficacy of RCI in patients with refractory RA, the response of patients with refractory RA in this study suggested that RCI could be an effective add-on therapy for patients who have exhausted several classes of treatments.  Furthermore, this study suggested that RCI has an alternative mode of action, compared to other available anti-rheumatic drugs.

The authors stated that this study had several drawbacks.  The trial size was small (n = 8).  Treatment of a larger population of patients with refractory RA may provide further insight into effective treatment and dosing strategies.  Additionally, this was an open-label trial and physicians and patients were aware of the status of RCI administration.  As such, sampling bias could not be completely excluded.  Furthermore, patients were on different medications at the time of intervention with RCI and no wash-out periods or standardization of concomitant medications was undertaken.  However, administration of multiple classes of treatments, such as a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) and a biologic, is common in patients with inadequate response to methotrexate monotherapy.  This was also a single-group study and no cohort exists that was not receiving RCI in order to make a direct comparison.

Fischer and Rapoport (2018) noted that although synthetic and biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are available, many patients with RA have a difficult-to-control disease and need other treatment options.  Repository corticotropin injection may alleviate symptoms and exacerbations in patients with refractory disease.  A total of 9 patients with refractory RA were included in this study.  Patients were maintained on their baseline therapies with a minimum of 7.5 mg prednisone daily; RCI was given daily at 40 U for 7 days.  Patients who had an adequate disease response were given 40 U twice-weekly through Week 12.  For patients who had inadequate disease response, the dose was increased to 80 U daily for 7 days, followed by 80 U twice-weekly through week 12.  The primary end-point was greater than 1.2 point reduction in the DAS28 using C-reactive protein (DAS28-CRP) at week 12.  Secondary end-points were improvements in Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disease Index and Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy scores; 6 of the 9 patients met the primary end-point.  The average change in DAS28-CRP from baseline to week 12 was numerically greater with 40 U than with 80 U RCI.  Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy and Health Assessment Questionnaire-Disease Index improved as early as week 1, and the improvements remained throughout treatment.  The authors concluded that there was no association between cortisol levels and low-dose RCI response.  No serious AEs occurred; RCI produced a clinically meaningful reduction in markers of disease activity, improved health-related QOL, and a favorable safety profile.  They stated that the response rate to RCI was substantial and showed promise in this difficult-to-treat population.  Moreover, they stated that further placebo-controlled studies in patients not receiving prednisone are needed to fully understand the mechanisms of RCI.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

In post-hoc analyses, Furie and associates (2017) evaluated the safety and effectiveness of RCI in patients with persistently active SLE over 52 weeks.  Patients were initially randomized to 40 U daily or 80 U every other day RCI (n = 26) or placebo (n = 12) for the 8-week double-blind period.  Completers entered the open-label extension (OLE; n = 33) receiving 16, 40 or 80 U RCI 1 to 3 times/week and were followed through week 52.  Outcomes included proportion of responders based on a novel index (resolution of joint or skin activity using hybrid Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (hSLEDAI) without any worsening British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) scores in other organ systems) or revised novel index (using SLE Responder Index (SRI) definition of BILAG worsening (1A or 2B)), proportion of responders by SRI and changes in total hSLEDAI and BILAG scores; AEs and laboratory values were assessed.  At week 52, 12.0 % (3/25) RCI/RCI patients and 36.4 % (4/11) placebo/RCI patients were responders using the novel index.  The revised novel responder index demonstrated response rates of 48.0 % (12/25) and 54.5 % (6/11) in the RCI/RCI and placebo/RCI groups, respectively.  Proportions of SRI responders were 40.0 % (10/25) and 54.5 % (6/11).  In the RCI/RCI group, total hSLEDAI and BILAG scores declined from 10.0 and 15.7 at week 0 to 3.5 and 4.6 at week 52, respectively.  Reductions in the placebo/RCI group on switching were observed (mean hSLEDAI: 9.1 to 3.3; BILAG: 13.5 to 2.6).  Other disease activity end-points also improved in both groups.  No new safety signals were observed during the OLE.  The authors concluded that RCI demonstrated durable effectiveness in patients with persistently active SLE despite moderate-dose corticosteroid therapy; switching from placebo resulted in reduced disease activity during the OLE.  They stated that these data provided the foundation for evaluation of RCI in a robustly powered study.

The authors stated that the drawbacks of this study included the small sample size (n = 26 for the RCI group) and the lack of inferential statistical analyses, meaning that conclusions regarding clinical improvement with long-term RCI must be viewed with caution.  These researchers noted that further evaluation of RCI in a well-powered clinical trial in SLE is underway.

Appendix

Repository corticotropin injection is available as H.P. Acthar Gel in 5 ml multi‐dose vial containing 80 USP units per mL.

Recommended Dosage Regimen for Infantile Spasms in Infants and Children Under 2 Years of Age

H.P. Acthar Gel is typically dosed based on body surface area (BSA) for infantile spasms. To calculate body surface area (BSA), see Body Surface Area Calculation.

In the treatment of infantile spasms, H.P. Acthar Gel must be administered intramuscularly.  The recommended regimen is a daily dose of 150 U/m2 (divided into twice-daily intramuscular injections of 75 U/m2) administered over a 2-week period.  Dosing with H.P. Acthar Gel should then be gradually tapered over a 2-week period to avoid adrenal insufficiency.  The following is one suggested tapering schedule: 30 U/m2 in the morning for 3 days; 15 U/m2 in the morning for three days; 10 U/m2 in the mornining for 3 days; and 10 U/m2 every other morning for 6 days.

Recommended Dosing Regimen for Acute Exacerbations of Multiple Sclerosis Footnotes for Dosing recommendations *

Note: Aetna considers H.P. Acthar Gel experimental and investigational for multiple sclerosis.  These dosing recommendations are provided in situations where Aetna's policy does not apply.

The recommended dose is daily intramuscular or subcutaneous doses of 80-120 units for 2 to 3 weeks for acute exacerbations.  Dosage should be individualized according to the medical condition of each patient.  Frequency and dose of the drug should be determined by considering the severity of the disease and the initial response of the patient.

Although drug dependence does not occur, sudden withdrawal of H.P. Acthar Gel after prolonged use may lead to adrenal insufficiency or recurrent symptoms which make it difficult to stop the treatment.  It may be necessary to taper the dose and increase the injection interval to gradually discontinue the medication.

Recommended Dosing Regimen for Other Indications for Adults and Children Over Two Years of Age Footnotes for Dosing recommendations *

Note: Aetna considers H.P. Acthar Gel experimental and investigational for corticosteroid-responsive conditions.  These dosing recommendations are provided in situations where Aetna's policy does not apply.

Dosage should be individualized according to the disease under treatment and the general medical condition of each patient.  Frequency and dose of the drug should be determined by considering severity of the disease and the initial response of the patient.  The usual dose of H.P. Acthar Gel is 40 to 80 units given intramuscularly or subcutaneously every 24 to 72 hours.

Although drug dependence does not occur, sudden withdrawal of H.P. Acthar Gel after prolonged use may lead to adrenal insufficiency or recurrent symptoms which make it difficult to stop the treatment.  It may be necessary to taper the dose and increase the injection interval to gradually discontinue the medication.

Source: Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. H.P. Acthar Gel (repository corticotropin injection) Injection, Gel for Intramuscular | Subcutaneous Use. Initial U.S. Approval: 1952. Prescribing Information. PL065/Rev.03 No. 1350. PM-554-01. Hayward, CA: Questcor; issued June 2011.

Recommended Dosing for Diagnostic Testing of Adrenocortical FunctionFootnotes for Dosing recommendations *

The recommended dose is up to 80 units subcutaneously or intramuscularly.

Footnotes for Dosing recommendations *Note: Dosing recommendations for these indications are provided for plans that cover all FDA-approved indications for drugs, including those indications that Aetna considers experimental and investigational.  Please check benefit plan descriptions.

Table: CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-10 Codes
Code Code Description

Information in the [brackets] below has been added for clarification purposes.   Codes requiring a 7th character are represented by "+":

Other CPT codes related to the CPB:

96372 Therapeutic, prophylactic, or diagnostic injection (specify substance or drug); subcutaneous or intramuscular

HCPCS codes covered if selection criteria are met:

J0800 Injection, corticotropin, up to 40 units

ICD-10 codes covered if selection criteria are met:

G40.821 - G40.824 Epileptic spasms [West's syndrome]

ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB :

A15.0 - A15.9 Respiratory tuberculosis [when used concurrently with antituberculous chemotherapy]
A17.0 Tuberculous meningitis [with subarachnoid block or impending block when used concurrently with appropriate antituberculous chemotherapy]
B02.39 Other herpes zoster eye disease [dermatitis of eyelid; severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
B75 Trichinellosis [with neurologic or myocardial involvement]
C81.00 - C96.9 Malignant neoplasm of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue [for palliative management of leukemias and lymphomas in adults, acute leukemia of childhood]
D59.0 - D59.9 Acquired hemolytic anemias
D61.01 Constitutional (pure) red cell aplasia
D61.89 Other specified aplastic anemias and other bone marrow failure syndromes [erythroblastopenia] [RBC anemia]
D69.59 Other secondary thrombocytopenia [in adults]
D86.0 - D86.9 Sarcoidosis [symptomatic] [pulmonary sarcoidosis, neurosarcoidosis]
E06.1 Subacute thyroiditis [nonsuppurative]
E83.52 Hypercalcemia [with cancer]
G12.21 Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
G35 Multiple sclerosis [acute exacerbations]
H10.001 - H10.44 Conjunctivitis [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
H16.001 - H16.299 Keratitis [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
H20.00 - H20.9 Iridocyclitis [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
H30.001 - H30.93 Chorioretinal inflammations [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
H44.11 - H44.19 Other endophthalmitis [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa] [including panuveitis and posterior uveitis]
H44.131 - H44.139 Sympathetic uveitis [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
H46.00 - H46.9 Optic neuritis [severe acute and chronic allergic and inflammatory processes involving the eye and its adnexa]
I00 - I02.9 Acute rheumatic fever [during an exacerbation or as maintenance therapy in selected cases]
J30.1 - J30.9 Allergic rhinitis [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
J45.20 - J45.998 Asthma [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
J63.2 Berylliosis
J68.0 Bronchitis and pneumonitis due to chemicals, gases, fumes and vapors [aspiration pneumonitis]
J69.0 - J69.8 Pneumonitis due to inhalation of food or vomit [aspiration pneumonitis]
J82 Pulmonary eosinophilia, not elsewhere classified [Loffler's syndrome not manageable by other means]
K29.60 - K29.61 Other gastritis [allergic gastritis] [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
K50.00 - K50.919 Crohn's disease[regional enteritis] [to tide the patient over a critical period of the disease]
K51.00 - K51.919 Ulcerative colitis [to tide the patient over a critical period of the disease]
K52.21 - K52.29 Allergic and dietary gastroenteritis and colitis
L10.0 - L10.9 Pemphigus
L13.0 Dermatitis herpetiformis
L21.8 - L21.9 Seborrheic dermatosis [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
L24.0 - L24.9 Irritant contact dermatitis [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
L27.0 - L27.9 Dermatitis due to substances taken internally [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
L40.0 - L40.9 Psoriasis [severe]
L50.0 - L50.9 Urticaria [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
L51.1 Stevens-Johnson syndrome
M05.00 - M14.89 Inflammatory polyarthropathies [as adjunctive therapy for short-term administration (to tide the patient over an acute episode or exacerbation) including selected cases of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis]
M10.00 - M10.09 Idiopathic gout [acute]
M15.0 - M19.93 Osteoarthritis [synovitis of] [as adjunctive therapy for short-term administration (to tide the patient over an acute episode or exacerbation)]
M32.0 - M32.9 Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) [during an exacerbation or as maintenance therapy in selected cases]
M45.0 - M45.9 Ankylosing spondylitis
M75.00 - M77.9 Shoulder lesions [acute and subacute bursitis] [acute nonspecific tenosynovitis]
N04.0 - N04.9 Nephrotic syndrome [to induce diuresis or a remission of proteinuria in the nephrotic syndrome without uremia of the idiopathic type]
T50.905+ Adverse effect of unspecified drugs, medicaments and biological sustances [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
T78.3xx+ Angioneurotic edema [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
T78.40x+ Allergy, unspecified [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
T80.51x+ - T80.59x+ Anaphylactic reaction due to serum [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]
T80.61x+ - T80.69x+ Other serum reaction [severe or incapacitating allergic conditions intractable to adequate trials of conventional treatment]

The above policy is based on the following references:

  1. Hamano S, Yamashita S, Tanaka M, et al. Therapeutic efficacy and adverse effects of adrenocorticotropic hormone therapy in West syndrome: Differences in dosage of adrenocorticotropic hormone, onset of age, and cause. J Pediatr. 2006;148(4):485-488.
  2. Hamano S, Tanaka M, Mochizuki M, et al. Long-term follow-up study of West syndrome: Differences of outcome among symptomatic etiologies. J Pediatr. 2003; 143(2):231-235.
  3. Ito M, Aiba H, Hashimoto K, et al. Low-dose ACTH therapy for West syndrome: Initial effects and long-term outcome. Neurology. 2002; 58(1):110-114.
  4. Hattori A, Ando N, Hamaguchi K, et al. Short-duration ACTH therapy for cryptogenic West syndrome with better outcome. Pediatr Neurol. 2006;35(6):415-418.
  5. Kivity S, Lerman P, Ariel R, et al. Long-term cognitive outcomes of a cohort of children with cryptogenic infantile spasms treated with high-dose adrenocorticotropic hormone. Epilepsia. 2004; 45(3):255-262.
  6. Lux AL, Edwards SW, Hancock E, et al; United Kingdom Infantile Spasms Study. The United Kingdom Infantile Spasms Study (UKISS) comparing hormone treatment with vigabatrin on developmental and epilepsy outcomes to age 14 months: A multicentre randomised trial. Lancet Neurol. 2005;4(11):712-717.
  7. Kondo Y, Okumura A, Watanabe K, et al. Comparison of two low dose ACTH therapies for West syndrome: Their efficacy and side effect. Brain Dev. 2005;27(5):326-330.
  8. Oguni H, Yanagaki S, Hayashi K, et al. Extremely low-dose ACTH step-up protocol for West syndrome: Maximum therapeutic effect with minimal side effects. Brain Dev. 2006;28(1):8-13.
  9. Riikonen R. Infantile spasms: Therapy and outcome. J Child Neurol. 2004;19(6):401-404.
    Tsuji T, Okumura A, Ozawa H, et al. Current treatment of West syndrome in Japan. J Child Neurol. 2007;22(5):560-564.
  10. Riikonen R. The latest on infantile spasms.Curr Opin Neurol. 2005;18(2):91-95.
  11. Verrotti A, Manco R, Coppola GG, et al. Update of the medical treatment of West syndrome. Minerva Pediatr. 2007;59(3):249-253.
  12. Hancock E, Osborne J, Milner P. Treatment of infantile spasms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002; (2):CD001770.
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