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Concept: Placebo


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; number, NCT02201940 .).

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


Background Apalutamide, a competitive inhibitor of the androgen receptor, is under development for the treatment of prostate cancer. We evaluated the efficacy of apalutamide in men with nonmetastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer who were at high risk for the development of metastasis. Methods We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trial involving men with nonmetastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and a prostate-specific antigen doubling time of 10 months or less. Patients were randomly assigned, in a 2:1 ratio, to receive apalutamide (240 mg per day) or placebo. All the patients continued to receive androgen-deprivation therapy. The primary end point was metastasis-free survival, which was defined as the time from randomization to the first detection of distant metastasis on imaging or death. Results A total of 1207 men underwent randomization (806 to the apalutamide group and 401 to the placebo group). In the planned primary analysis, which was performed after 378 events had occurred, median metastasis-free survival was 40.5 months in the apalutamide group as compared with 16.2 months in the placebo group (hazard ratio for metastasis or death, 0.28; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23 to 0.35; P<0.001). Time to symptomatic progression was significantly longer with apalutamide than with placebo (hazard ratio, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.32 to 0.63; P<0.001). The rate of adverse events leading to discontinuation of the trial regimen was 10.6% in the apalutamide group and 7.0% in the placebo group. The following adverse events occurred at a higher rate with apalutamide than with placebo: rash (23.8% vs. 5.5%), hypothyroidism (8.1% vs. 2.0%), and fracture (11.7% vs. 6.5%). Conclusions Among men with nonmetastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, metastasis-free survival and time to symptomatic progression were significantly longer with apalutamide than with placebo. (Funded by Janssen Research and Development; SPARTAN number, NCT01946204 .).

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


Background The programmed death 1 (PD-1) inhibitor pembrolizumab has been found to prolong progression-free and overall survival among patients with advanced melanoma. We conducted a phase 3 double-blind trial to evaluate pembrolizumab as adjuvant therapy in patients with resected, high-risk stage III melanoma. Methods Patients with completely resected stage III melanoma were randomly assigned (with stratification according to cancer stage and geographic region) to receive 200 mg of pembrolizumab (514 patients) or placebo (505 patients) intravenously every 3 weeks for a total of 18 doses (approximately 1 year) or until disease recurrence or unacceptable toxic effects occurred. Recurrence-free survival in the overall intention-to-treat population and in the subgroup of patients with cancer that was positive for the PD-1 ligand (PD-L1) were the primary end points. Safety was also evaluated. Results At a median follow-up of 15 months, pembrolizumab was associated with significantly longer recurrence-free survival than placebo in the overall intention-to-treat population (1-year rate of recurrence-free survival, 75.4% [95% confidence interval {CI}, 71.3 to 78.9] vs. 61.0% [95% CI, 56.5 to 65.1]; hazard ratio for recurrence or death, 0.57; 98.4% CI, 0.43 to 0.74; P<0.001) and in the subgroup of 853 patients with PD-L1-positive tumors (1-year rate of recurrence-free survival, 77.1% [95% CI, 72.7 to 80.9] in the pembrolizumab group and 62.6% [95% CI, 57.7 to 67.0] in the placebo group; hazard ratio, 0.54; 95% CI, 0.42 to 0.69; P<0.001). Adverse events of grades 3 to 5 that were related to the trial regimen were reported in 14.7% of the patients in the pembrolizumab group and in 3.4% of patients in the placebo group. There was one treatment-related death due to myositis in the pembrolizumab group. Conclusions As adjuvant therapy for high-risk stage III melanoma, 200 mg of pembrolizumab administered every 3 weeks for up to 1 year resulted in significantly longer recurrence-free survival than placebo, with no new toxic effects identified. (Funded by Merck; number, NCT02362594 ; EudraCT number, 2014-004944-37 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Cancer, Cancer staging, Clinical research, Placebo, Group theory, Toxicity


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 number, NCT01660126 .).

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


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 number, NCT01715285 .).

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


We sought to determine whether high-dose folinic acid improves verbal communication in children with non-syndromic autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and language impairment in a double-blind placebo control setting. Forty-eight children (mean age 7 years 4  months; 82% male) with ASD and language impairment were randomized to receive 12 weeks of high-dose folinic acid (2 mg kg(-1) per day, maximum 50 mg per day; n=23) or placebo (n=25). Children were subtyped by glutathione and folate receptor-α autoantibody (FRAA) status. Improvement in verbal communication, as measured by a ability-appropriate standardized instrument, was significantly greater in participants receiving folinic acid as compared with those receiving placebo, resulting in an effect of 5.7 (1.0,10.4) standardized points with a medium-to-large effect size (Cohen’s d=0.70). FRAA status was predictive of response to treatment. For FRAA-positive participants, improvement in verbal communication was significantly greater in those receiving folinic acid as compared with those receiving placebo, resulting in an effect of 7.3 (1.4,13.2) standardized points with a large effect size (Cohen’s d=0.91), indicating that folinic acid treatment may be more efficacious in children with ASD who are FRAA positive. Improvements in subscales of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale, the Aberrant Behavior Checklist, the Autism Symptom Questionnaire and the Behavioral Assessment System for Children were significantly greater in the folinic acid group as compared with the placebo group. There was no significant difference in adverse effects between treatment groups. Thus, in this small trial of children with non-syndromic ASD and language impairment, treatment with high-dose folinic acid for 12 weeks resulted in improvement in verbal communication as compared with placebo, particularly in those participants who were positive for FRAAs.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 18 October 2016; doi:10.1038/mp.2016.168.

Concepts: Improve, Statistical significance, Autism, Placebo, Folic acid, Effect size, Asperger syndrome, Autism spectrum


In advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, serotonergic terminals take up l-DOPA and convert it to dopamine. Abnormally released dopamine may participate in the development of l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias. Simultaneous activation of 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptors effectively blocks l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias in animal models of dopamine depletion, justifying a clinical study with eltoprazine, a 5-HT1A/B receptor agonist, against l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias in patients with Parkinson’s disease. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled and dose-finding phase I/IIa study was conducted. Single oral treatment with placebo or eltoprazine, at 2.5, 5 and 7.5 mg, was tested in combination with a suprathreshold dose of l-DOPA (Sinemet®) in 22 patients with Parkinson’s disease (16 male/six female; 66.6 ± 8.8 years old) with l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias. A Wilcoxon Signed Ranked Test was used to compare each eltoprazine dose level to paired randomized placebo on the prespecified primary efficacy variables; area under the curve scores on Clinical Dyskinesia Rating Scale for 3 h post-dose and maximum change of Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale part III for 3 h post-dose. Secondary objectives included effects on maximum Clinical Dyskinesia Rating Scale score, area under the curve of Rush Dyskinesia Rating Scale score for 3 h post-dose, mood parameters measured by Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale and Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale along with the pharmacokinetics, safety and tolerability profile of eltoprazine. A mixed model repeated measures was used for post hoc analyses of the area under the curve and peak Clinical Dyskinesia Rating Scale scores. It was found that serum concentrations of eltoprazine increased in a dose-proportional manner. Following levodopa challenge, 5 mg eltoprazine caused a significant reduction of l-DOPA-induced dyskinesias on area under the curves of Clinical Dyskinesia Rating Scale [-1.02(1.49); P = 0.004] and Rush Dyskinesia Rating Scale [-0.15(0.23); P = 0.003]; and maximum Clinical Dyskinesia Rating Scale score [-1.14(1.59); P = 0.005]. The post hoc analysis confirmed these results and also showed an antidyskinetic effect of 7.5 mg eltoprazine. Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale part III scores did not differ between the placebo and eltoprazine treatments. The most frequent adverse effects after eltoprazine were nausea and dizziness. It can be concluded that a single dose, oral treatment with eltoprazine has beneficial antidyskinetic effects without altering normal motor responses to l-DOPA. All doses of eltoprazine were well tolerated, with no major adverse effects. Eltoprazine has a favourable risk-benefit and pharmacokinetic profile in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The data support further clinical studies with chronic oral eltoprazine to treat l-DOPA-induced-dyskinesias.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Effectiveness, Parkinson's disease, Clinical research, Placebo, Dopamine, L-DOPA


BACKGROUND: While many randomised controlled trials have been conducted on multivitamins, to our knowledge no qualitative research exploring the subjective experience of taking a multivitamin during a clinical trial has been reported. METHODS: Semi-structured and open-ended written questions were incorporated into a 16-week double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, parallel groups trial of once-daily multivitamin administration. At the final study visit (week 16), three open-ended questions were posed to elucidate any positive, negative or unusual experiences from taking either the multivitamin or matched placebo. Qualitative thematic analysis was undertaken by researchers who were blind as to treatment condition of participants, and triangulation (independent analysis from three researchers) was employed to ensure methodological rigour. Participant’s experiences were categorised as “positive” or “negative” and a Chi Square analysis was then applied to each of the experiential themes, to compare experiences between the multivitamin and placebo groups, (subdividing the groups by gender). Usual experiences were categorised and discussed separately. RESULTS: Of the 182 participants enrolled, 116 completed the study and qualitative data were available from 114 participants. Thematic analysis revealed significant effects in favour of the multivitamin over placebo for participants experiencing increased energy levels (p=.022) and enhanced mood (p=.027). The beneficial effect on energy levels was particularly evident among female participants. A trend was found for participants reporting better sleep in the multivitamin over placebo. The multivitamin and placebo groups did not significantly differ in perceived positive or negative effects in areas relating to other aspects of mental function or physical health. No significant negative effects were revealed, although there was a non-significant trend for more people in the multivitamin group having minor digestive complaints. CONCLUSION: This represents the first documented qualitative investigation of participants' experience of chronic administration of a multivitamin. Results uncovered a range of subjective beneficial effects that are consistent with quantitative data from previously published randomised controlled trials examining the effects of multivitamins and B vitamin complexes on mood and well-being.Trial registration: Prior to commencement this trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ( ACTRN12611000092998.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Evaluation methods, Pharmaceutical industry, Clinical research, Placebo, Quantitative research


Background Hereditary angioedema with C1 inhibitor deficiency is characterized by recurrent, unpredictable swelling episodes caused by uncontrolled plasma kallikrein generation and excessive bradykinin release resulting from cleavage of high-molecular-weight kininogen. Lanadelumab (DX-2930) is a new kallikrein inhibitor with the potential for prophylactic treatment of hereditary angioedema with C1 inhibitor deficiency. Methods We conducted a phase 1b, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multiple-ascending-dose trial. Patients with hereditary angioedema with C1 inhibitor deficiency were randomly assigned in a 2:1 ratio to receive either lanadelumab (24 patients) or placebo (13 patients), in two administrations 14 days apart. Patients assigned to lanadelumab were enrolled in sequential dose groups: total dose of 30 mg (4 patients), 100 mg (4 patients), 300 mg (5 patients), or 400 mg (11 patients). The pharmacodynamic profile of lanadelumab was assessed by measurement of plasma levels of cleaved high-molecular-weight kininogen, and efficacy was assessed by the rate of attacks of angioedema during a prespecified period (day 8 to day 50) in the 300-mg and 400-mg groups as compared with the placebo group. Results No discontinuations occurred because of adverse events, serious adverse events, or deaths in patients who received lanadelumab. The most common adverse events that emerged during treatment were attacks of angioedema, injection-site pain, and headache. Dose-proportional increases in serum concentrations of lanadelumab were observed; the mean elimination half-life was approximately 2 weeks. Lanadelumab at a dose of 300 mg or 400 mg reduced cleavage of high-molecular-weight kininogen in plasma from patients with hereditary angioedema with C1 inhibitor deficiency to levels approaching that from patients without the disorder. From day 8 to day 50, the 300-mg and 400-mg groups had 100% and 88% fewer attacks, respectively, than the placebo group. All patients in the 300-mg group and 82% (9 of 11) in the 400-mg group were attack-free, as compared with 27% (3 of 11) in the placebo group. Conclusions In this small trial, administration of lanadelumab to patients with hereditary angioedema with C1 inhibitor deficiency reduced cleavage of high-molecular-weight kininogen and attacks of angioedema. (Funded by Dyax; number, NCT02093923 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Coagulation, Placebo, Bradykinin, Urticaria and angioedema, Kallikrein, Kininogen, Kinin


To assess if continuous topical glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) treatment improves outcome in patients with chronic patellar tendinopathy when compared with eccentric training alone.

Concepts: Clinical trial, Medical terms,, Placebo