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Concept: Placebo

415

This randomized controlled trial was performed to investigate whether placebo effects in chronic low back pain could be harnessed ethically by adding open-label placebo (OLP) treatment to treatment as usual (TAU) for 3 weeks. Pain severity was assessed on three 0- to 10-point Numeric Rating Scales, scoring maximum pain, minimum pain, and usual pain, and a composite, primary outcome, total pain score. Our other primary outcome was back-related dysfunction, assessed on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire. In an exploratory follow-up, participants on TAU received placebo pills for 3 additional weeks. We randomized 97 adults reporting persistent low back pain for more than 3 months' duration and diagnosed by a board-certified pain specialist. Eighty-three adults completed the trial. Compared to TAU, OLP elicited greater pain reduction on each of the three 0- to 10-point Numeric Rating Scales and on the 0- to 10-point composite pain scale (P < 0.001), with moderate to large effect sizes. Pain reduction on the composite Numeric Rating Scales was 1.5 (95% confidence interval: 1.0-2.0) in the OLP group and 0.2 (-0.3 to 0.8) in the TAU group. Open-label placebo treatment also reduced disability compared to TAU (P < 0.001), with a large effect size. Improvement in disability scores was 2.9 (1.7-4.0) in the OLP group and 0.0 (-1.1 to 1.2) in the TAU group. After being switched to OLP, the TAU group showed significant reductions in both pain (1.5, 0.8-2.3) and disability (3.4, 2.2-4.5). Our findings suggest that OLP pills presented in a positive context may be helpful in chronic low back pain.This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Pharmaceutical industry, Statistical significance, Clinical research, Acupuncture, Low back pain, Effect size, Placebo

372

Background Antiretroviral medications that are used as prophylaxis can prevent acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection. However, in clinical trials among African women, the incidence of HIV-1 infection was not reduced, probably because of low adherence. Longer-acting methods of drug delivery, such as vaginal rings, may simplify use of antiretroviral medications and provide HIV-1 protection. Methods We conducted a phase 3, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a monthly vaginal ring containing dapivirine, a non-nucleoside HIV-1 reverse-transcriptase inhibitor, involving women between the ages of 18 and 45 years in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Results Among the 2629 women who were enrolled, 168 HIV-1 infections occurred: 71 in the dapivirine group and 97 in the placebo group (incidence, 3.3 and 4.5 per 100 person-years, respectively). The incidence of HIV-1 infection in the dapivirine group was lower by 27% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1 to 46; P=0.05) than that in the placebo group. In an analysis that excluded data from two sites that had reduced rates of retention and adherence, the incidence of HIV-1 infection in the dapivirine group was lower by 37% (95% CI, 12 to 56; P=0.007) than that in the placebo group. In a post hoc analysis, higher rates of HIV-1 protection were observed among women over the age of 21 years (56%; 95% CI, 31 to 71; P<0.001) but not among those 21 years of age or younger (-27%; 95% CI, -133 to 31; P=0.45), a difference that was correlated with reduced adherence. The rates of adverse medical events and antiretroviral resistance among women who acquired HIV-1 infection were similar in the two groups. Conclusions A monthly vaginal ring containing dapivirine reduced the risk of HIV-1 infection among African women, with increased efficacy in subgroups with evidence of increased adherence. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01617096 .).

Concepts: Africa, Virus, Immune system, Antiretroviral drug, AIDS, Placebo, Clinical trial, HIV

328

Aging is variably but inevitably accompanied by declines in health; concomitantly, in men, circulating sex-steroid levels fall with age.(1) To what extent these two processes are causally linked and whether testosterone therapy can prevent or ameliorate important age-related problems have been major issues in men’s health. In 2003, a committee assembled by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found a paucity of randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials involving older men and noted a lack of definite evidence that testosterone therapy conferred benefits.(2) The committee recommended that clinical trials be initiated, first to evaluate the efficacy of testosterone supplementation in older men and . . .

Concepts: Placebo, Randomized controlled trial, Avicenna, The Canon of Medicine, Death, Clinical trial, Health care, Medicine

326

Background Dupilumab, a human monoclonal antibody against interleukin-4 receptor alpha, inhibits signaling of interleukin-4 and interleukin-13, type 2 cytokines that may be important drivers of atopic or allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis. Methods In two randomized, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trials of identical design (SOLO 1 and SOLO 2), we enrolled adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis whose disease was inadequately controlled by topical treatment. Patients were randomly assigned in a 1:1:1 ratio to receive, for 16 weeks, subcutaneous dupilumab (300 mg) or placebo weekly or the same dose of dupilumab every other week alternating with placebo. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients who had both a score of 0 or 1 (clear or almost clear) on the Investigator’s Global Assessment and a reduction of 2 points or more in that score from baseline at week 16. Results We enrolled 671 patients in SOLO 1 and 708 in SOLO 2. In SOLO 1, the primary outcome occurred in 85 patients (38%) who received dupilumab every other week and in 83 (37%) who received dupilumab weekly, as compared with 23 (10%) who received placebo (P<0.001 for both comparisons with placebo). The results were similar in SOLO 2, with the primary outcome occurring in 84 patients (36%) who received dupilumab every other week and in 87 (36%) who received dupilumab weekly, as compared with 20 (8%) who received placebo (P<0.001 for both comparisons). In addition, in the two trials, an improvement from baseline to week 16 of at least 75% on the Eczema Area and Severity Index was reported in significantly more patients who received each regimen of dupilumab than in patients who received placebo (P<0.001 for all comparisons). Dupilumab was also associated with improvement in other clinical end points, including reduction in pruritus and symptoms of anxiety or depression and improvement in quality of life. Injection-site reactions and conjunctivitis were more frequent in the dupilumab groups than in the placebo groups. Conclusions In two phase 3 trials of identical design involving patients with atopic dermatitis, dupilumab improved the signs and symptoms of atopic dermatitis, including pruritus, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and quality of life, as compared with placebo. Trials of longer duration are needed to assess the long-term effectiveness and safety of dupilumab. (Funded by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; SOLO 1 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02277743 ; SOLO 2 ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02277769 .).

Concepts: Interleukin 4, ClinicalTrials.gov, Regeneron, Placebo, Cytokine, Clinical trial, Allergy, Monoclonal antibodies

304

Background Each year, rotavirus gastroenteritis is responsible for about 37% of deaths from diarrhea among children younger than 5 years of age worldwide, with a disproportionate effect in sub-Saharan Africa. Methods We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in Niger to evaluate the efficacy of a live, oral bovine rotavirus pentavalent vaccine (BRV-PV, Serum Institute of India) to prevent severe rotavirus gastroenteritis. Healthy infants received three doses of the vaccine or placebo at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Episodes of gastroenteritis were assessed through active and passive surveillance and were graded on the basis of the score on the Vesikari scale (which ranges from 0 to 20, with higher scores indicating more severe disease). The primary end point was the efficacy of three doses of vaccine as compared with placebo against a first episode of laboratory-confirmed severe rotavirus gastroenteritis (Vesikari score, ≥11) beginning 28 days after dose 3. Results Among the 3508 infants who were included in the per-protocol efficacy analysis, there were 31 cases of severe rotavirus gastroenteritis in the vaccine group and 87 cases in the placebo group (2.14 and 6.44 cases per 100 person-years, respectively), for a vaccine efficacy of 66.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 49.9 to 77.9). Similar efficacy was seen in the intention-to-treat analyses, which showed a vaccine efficacy of 69.1% (95% CI, 55.0 to 78.7). There was no significant between-group difference in the risk of adverse events, which were reported in 68.7% of the infants in the vaccine group and in 67.2% of those in the placebo group, or in the risk of serious adverse events (in 8.3% in the vaccine group and in 9.1% in the placebo group); there were 27 deaths in the vaccine group and 22 in the placebo group. None of the infants had confirmed intussusception. Conclusions Three doses of BRV-PV, an oral rotavirus vaccine, had an efficacy of 66.7% against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis among infants in Niger. (Funded by Médecins sans Frontières Operational Center and the Kavli Foundation; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02145000 .).

Concepts: Malaria, Clinical trial, Pediatrics, Diarrhea, Vaccine, Placebo, Rotavirus vaccine, Rotavirus

293

Background Preterm preeclampsia is an important cause of maternal and perinatal death and complications. It is uncertain whether the intake of low-dose aspirin during pregnancy reduces the risk of preterm preeclampsia. Methods In this multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned 1776 women with singleton pregnancies who were at high risk for preterm preeclampsia to receive aspirin, at a dose of 150 mg per day, or placebo from 11 to 14 weeks of gestation until 36 weeks of gestation. The primary outcome was delivery with preeclampsia before 37 weeks of gestation. The analysis was performed according to the intention-to-treat principle. Results A total of 152 women withdrew consent during the trial, and 4 were lost to follow up, which left 798 participants in the aspirin group and 822 in the placebo group. Preterm preeclampsia occurred in 13 participants (1.6%) in the aspirin group, as compared with 35 (4.3%) in the placebo group (odds ratio in the aspirin group, 0.38; 95% confidence interval, 0.20 to 0.74; P=0.004). Results were materially unchanged in a sensitivity analysis that took into account participants who had withdrawn or were lost to follow-up. Adherence was good, with a reported intake of 85% or more of the required number of tablets in 79.9% of the participants. There were no significant between-group differences in the incidence of neonatal adverse outcomes or other adverse events. Conclusions Treatment with low-dose aspirin in women at high risk for preterm preeclampsia resulted in a lower incidence of this diagnosis than placebo. (Funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Program and the Fetal Medicine Foundation; EudraCT number, 2013-003778-29 ; Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN13633058 .).

Concepts: European Union, Uterus, Placebo, Obstetrics, Embryo, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Fetus

284

Background Acetaminophen is a common therapy for fever in patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who have probable infection, but its effects are unknown. Methods We randomly assigned 700 ICU patients with fever (body temperature, ≥38°C) and known or suspected infection to receive either 1 g of intravenous acetaminophen or placebo every 6 hours until ICU discharge, resolution of fever, cessation of antimicrobial therapy, or death. The primary outcome was ICU-free days (days alive and free from the need for intensive care) from randomization to day 28. Results The number of ICU-free days to day 28 did not differ significantly between the acetaminophen group and the placebo group: 23 days (interquartile range, 13 to 25) among patients assigned to acetaminophen and 22 days (interquartile range, 12 to 25) among patients assigned to placebo (Hodges-Lehmann estimate of absolute difference, 0 days; 96.2% confidence interval [CI], 0 to 1; P=0.07). A total of 55 of 345 patients in the acetaminophen group (15.9%) and 57 of 344 patients in the placebo group (16.6%) had died by day 90 (relative risk, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.66 to 1.39; P=0.84). Conclusions Early administration of acetaminophen to treat fever due to probable infection did not affect the number of ICU-free days. (Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and others; HEAT Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry number, ACTRN12612000513819 .).

Concepts: Estimator, Mathematics, Intensive care medicine, Interquartile range, Statistics, Fever, Clinical trial, Placebo

273

Background A simple treatment regimen that is effective in a broad range of patients who are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains an unmet medical need. Methods We conducted a phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving untreated and previously treated patients with chronic HCV genotype 1, 2, 4, 5, or 6 infection, including those with compensated cirrhosis. Patients with HCV genotype 1, 2, 4, or 6 were randomly assigned in a 5:1 ratio to receive the nucleotide polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir and the NS5A inhibitor velpatasvir in a once-daily, fixed-dose combination tablet or matching placebo for 12 weeks. Because of the low prevalence of genotype 5 in the study regions, patients with genotype 5 did not undergo randomization but were assigned to the sofosbuvir-velpatasvir group. The primary end point was a sustained virologic response at 12 weeks after the end of therapy. Results Of the 624 patients who received treatment with sofosbuvir-velpatasvir, 34% had HCV genotype 1a, 19% genotype 1b, 17% genotype 2, 19% genotype 4, 6% genotype 5, and 7% genotype 6. A total of 8% of patients were black, 19% had cirrhosis, and 32% had been previously treated for HCV. The rate of sustained virologic response among patients receiving sofosbuvir-velpatasvir was 99% (95% confidence interval, 98 to >99). Two patients receiving sofosbuvir-velpatasvir, both with HCV genotype 1, had a virologic relapse. None of the 116 patients receiving placebo had a sustained virologic response. Serious adverse events were reported in 15 patients (2%) in the sofosbuvir-velpatasvir group and none in the placebo group. Conclusions Once-daily sofosbuvir-velpatasvir for 12 weeks provided high rates of sustained virologic response among both previously treated and untreated patients infected with HCV genotype 1, 2, 4, 5, or 6, including those with compensated cirrhosis. (Funded by Gilead Sciences; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02201940 .).

Concepts: Hepatitis, Infection, DNA, Medical terms, Hepatitis C virus, Placebo, Clinical trial, Hepatitis C

221

Background The use of levothyroxine to treat subclinical hypothyroidism is controversial. We aimed to determine whether levothyroxine provided clinical benefits in older persons with this condition. Methods We conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial involving 737 adults who were at least 65 years of age and who had persisting subclinical hypothyroidism (thyrotropin level, 4.60 to 19.99 mIU per liter; free thyroxine level within the reference range). A total of 368 patients were assigned to receive levothyroxine (at a starting dose of 50 μg daily, or 25 μg if the body weight was <50 kg or the patient had coronary heart disease), with dose adjustment according to the thyrotropin level; 369 patients were assigned to receive placebo with mock dose adjustment. The two primary outcomes were the change in the Hypothyroid Symptoms score and Tiredness score on a thyroid-related quality-of-life questionnaire at 1 year (range of each scale is 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more symptoms or tiredness, respectively; minimum clinically important difference, 9 points). Results The mean age of the patients was 74.4 years, and 396 patients (53.7%) were women. The mean (±SD) thyrotropin level was 6.40±2.01 mIU per liter at baseline; at 1 year, this level had decreased to 5.48 mIU per liter in the placebo group, as compared with 3.63 mIU per liter in the levothyroxine group (P<0.001), at a median dose of 50 μg. We found no differences in the mean change at 1 year in the Hypothyroid Symptoms score (0.2±15.3 in the placebo group and 0.2±14.4 in the levothyroxine group; between-group difference, 0.0; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.0 to 2.1) or the Tiredness score (3.2±17.7 and 3.8±18.4, respectively; between-group difference, 0.4; 95% CI, -2.1 to 2.9). No beneficial effects of levothyroxine were seen on secondary-outcome measures. There was no significant excess of serious adverse events prespecified as being of special interest. Conclusions Levothyroxine provided no apparent benefits in older persons with subclinical hypothyroidism. (Funded by European Union FP7 and others; TRUST ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01660126 .).

Concepts: Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Thyroid-stimulating hormone, Placebo, Clinical trial, Hyperthyroidism, Thyroid, Thyroid hormone, Hypothyroidism

199

Background Abiraterone acetate, a drug that blocks endogenous androgen synthesis, plus prednisone is indicated for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. We evaluated the clinical benefit of abiraterone acetate plus prednisone with androgen-deprivation therapy in patients with newly diagnosed, metastatic, castration-sensitive prostate cancer. Methods In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial, we randomly assigned 1199 patients to receive either androgen-deprivation therapy plus abiraterone acetate (1000 mg daily, given once daily as four 250-mg tablets) plus prednisone (5 mg daily) (the abiraterone group) or androgen-deprivation therapy plus dual placebos (the placebo group). The two primary end points were overall survival and radiographic progression-free survival. Results After a median follow-up of 30.4 months at a planned interim analysis (after 406 patients had died), the median overall survival was significantly longer in the abiraterone group than in the placebo group (not reached vs. 34.7 months) (hazard ratio for death, 0.62; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.51 to 0.76; P<0.001). The median length of radiographic progression-free survival was 33.0 months in the abiraterone group and 14.8 months in the placebo group (hazard ratio for disease progression or death, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.39 to 0.55; P<0.001). Significantly better outcomes in all secondary end points were observed in the abiraterone group, including the time until pain progression, next subsequent therapy for prostate cancer, initiation of chemotherapy, and prostate-specific antigen progression (P<0.001 for all comparisons), along with next symptomatic skeletal events (P=0.009). These findings led to the unanimous recommendation by the independent data and safety monitoring committee that the trial be unblinded and crossover be allowed for patients in the placebo group to receive abiraterone. Rates of grade 3 hypertension and hypokalemia were higher in the abiraterone group. Conclusions The addition of abiraterone acetate and prednisone to androgen-deprivation therapy significantly increased overall survival and radiographic progression-free survival in men with newly diagnosed, metastatic, castration-sensitive prostate cancer. (Funded by Janssen Research and Development; LATITUDE ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01715285 .).

Concepts: Androgen, Prostate-specific antigen, Clinical trial, Chemotherapy, Metastasis, Placebo, Cancer, Prostate cancer