Mexiletine Banishes Muscle Cramps in Phase 2 Trial of ALS

March 8, 2016 - als

Mexiletine, a drug already on a market, competence lessen a frequent, upsetting flesh cramps that annoy people with amyotrophic parallel sclerosis, according to a investigate in a Feb 24 Neurology online. People in a Phase 2 trial who took a sodium channel blocker reported fewer and milder cramps than those on placebo, detected researchers led by Michael Weiss of a University of Washington in Seattle. Scientists think a medication, suspicion to dial down excitability of both marginal and executive nerves, competence also delayed ALS progression, yet a 60-person investigate could conjunction endorse nor rebut this hypothesis.


The infancy of people with ALS have flesh cramps, that scientists trust are due to extreme activation of a marginal nerves that kindle contractions. “It is a same thing as a Charley horse, a transitory upsetting flesh contraction,” pronounced Weiss. Cramps impact 92 percent of people with ALS, according to a consult that Björn Oskarsson of a University of California, Davis, conducted among scarcely 300 National ALS Registry members. Oskarsson was not concerned in a trial, yet reported during a International Symposium on ALS/MND in Orlando in 2015 that ALS patients can have adult to 75 cramps per day. They are mostly a usually source of pain for people with ALS, he found. This jibes with a recently published paper stating cramping in 95 percent of people with ALS (Caress et al., 2015). 

“For many people cramps are a nuisance,” Oskarsson told Alzforum. “But for a minority, it is a unequivocally vast deal.” Some people with ALS equivocate movements that they know trigger cramps, he said, restricting their mobility even some-more than a prejudiced stoppage already caused by a disease. Plus, Oskarsson forked out, a inept chairman can't widen to soothe a cramp, and hence needs someone else to widen their muscles for them. Oskarsson found that about 20 percent of people with ALS were so worried by cramping that they would take remedy for it, if available. Some take quinine for relief, yet a FDA does not suggest this since a drug can be toxic, Weiss said.

Mexiletine is a sodium channel blocker, creatively authorized to provide cardiac arrhythmia. In 2003, researchers reported it alleviated cramping in Machado-Joseph disease, a form of spinocerebellar ataxia (Kanai et al., 2003). That desirous Oskarsson to allot it off-label for ALS; Weiss and some other physicians do a same. Ten people in Oskarsson’s consult were already holding it. “It works like a charm,” Oskarsson said. However, no randomized tranquil trials support a practice. Weiss’ study, as good as Oskarsson’s 30-person Phase 4 trial underway in people with serious cramps, try to fill that gap.

Weiss and an array of collaborators, including comparison author Merit Cudkowicz of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, recruited 60 volunteers with ALS to 10 opposite investigate sites in a Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS, see Oct 2011 news series). People were authorised for a investigate regardless of how many cramps they had had before. The authors randomized volunteers into 3 groups for a verbal medication: one-third perceived placebo, one-third took 300 milligrams of mexiletine per day, and one-third 900 milligrams daily. The categorical idea for a 12-week Phase 2 hearing was to establish if a remedy was protected and tolerable. It seemed safe, yet a high sip valid intolerable. More than a entertain of people holding 900 milligrams complained of famous side effects including nausea, tremors, and dizziness. Nearly one-third of people on a high sip stopped holding a study medication.

During a trial, clinicians sent participants home with a diary to record how mostly they had cramps and how heated they were on a scale of 0 to 10.  When a authors averaged formula from everybody in a study—whether they had creatively complained of cramps or not—the drug some-more than halved both a series of cramps per week and their intensity. When a researchers singular their research to people who reported 10 or some-more cramps per month during baseline, they saw even some-more considerable results. People on remedy reported an normal of 9 cramps per week; those on low-dose mexiletine averaged two, and those on a high sip had fewer than one.

“This is a well-designed investigate that attacks a novel ALS mechanism, hyperexcitability,” commented Richard Bedlack of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who did not attend in a work. “It shows that mexiletine is protected during these doses and that it appears really effective against cramps.” 

The authors assume that mexiletine works by interference sodium channels and abating marginal haughtiness excitability; however, a investigate did not endorse this, forked out Jonathan Glass of a Emory University School of Medicine in a Neurology editorial. Glass mentioned a process to magnitude this excitability called threshold tracking; scientists in Japan used threshold tracking in a six-month, Phase 2 mexiletine hearing and celebrated no outcome of a drug (Shibuya et al., 2015). That could be since a authors usually tested one haughtiness in a wrist, while neuromuscular symptoms of ALS can stand adult anywhere in a body, remarkable investigate author Satoshi Kuwabara of Chiba University. Kuwabara and colleagues did not consider cramping in their subjects, yet they did find that a diagnosis reduced fasciculations—muscle twitches that are also caused by hyperexcitable nerves. “A approach attribute among mexiletine, sodium conductance, and cramping stays to be determined,” Glass wrote.

Weiss skeleton to embody threshold tracking in an arriving mexiletine trial. It will again enroll 60 people, during 9 opposite centers, in placebo, 300 milligram, or 600 milligram groups. The categorical idea of this eight-week study, Weiss said, will be to investigate a pharmacodynamics of a drug and effects on both marginal and cortical haughtiness hyperexcitability. It will use transcranial captivating kick to consider excitability in a brain, that is famous to be amped-up in people with ALS (see Sep 2015 news). The new investigate will also embody a quality-of-life questionnaire, Weiss said, to establish how interlude cramps affects participants overall.

The new investigate is not powered to exam if a drug affects presence of people with ALS, and mexiletine did not impact metrics for ALS progression, such as a ALS Functional Rating Scale, in possibly a U.S. or Japanese studies. “This competence be due to a tiny representation distance and brief generation of a studies,” wrote Kuwabara and co-worker Kazumoto Shibuya in an email to Alzforum. “To detect a neuroprotective effects of mexiletine, we have to try a vast sip for a longer intervention period.”

Scientists have reason to think that mexiletine competence delayed a course of a illness in further to relieving an upsetting symptom. For one, Weiss and colleagues found it in cerebrospinal liquid they collected from investigate participants, indicating it gets into a executive shaken complement where it could theoretically assistance degenerating engine neurons. In addition, people with ALS whose marginal nerves are hyperexcitable, as totalled by threshold tracking, tend to die earlier than other patients (Kanai et al., 2012). Hyperexcitability leads to recover of additional glutamate, a famous problem in a disease. In fact, a usually drug famous to delayed down ALS a bit, riluzole, hinders glutamate release. Riluzole competence forestall hyperexcitability, too, yet it does not impact cramps (Fritz et al., 2013). Oskarsson pronounced a motive for mexiletine as a intensity ALS-slowing drug creates sense, yet formed on his possess clinical knowledge with a drug he doubts a outcome on illness progression, if any, will be large.

Separately, scientists are also contrast a potassium channel opener retigabine in a Phase 2 trial with scarcely 200 subjects in hopes of shortening excitotoxicity and ALS progression.—Amber Dance


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Conference Coverage Series Citations

  1. Northeast ALS Consortium 2011 31 Oct 2011

News Citations

  1. Magnet Test Finds Cortex Overexcitable in All ALS 15 Sep 2015

Therapeutics Citations

  1. Riluzole

Paper Citations

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    Natural story of flesh cramps in amyotrophic parallel sclerosis.
    Muscle Nerve. 2015 Sep 2;
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    Muscle cramp in Machado-Joseph disease: altered engine axonal excitability properties and mexiletine treatment.
    Brain. 2003 Apr;126(Pt 4):965-73.
  3. .
    A singular blind randomized tranquil clinical hearing of mexiletine in amyotrophic parallel sclerosis: Efficacy and reserve of sodium channel blocker proviso II trial.
    Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2015 Sep;16(5-6):353-8. Epub 2015 May 11
  4. .
    Motor axonal excitability properties are clever predictors for presence in amyotrophic parallel sclerosis.
    J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 Jul;83(7):734-8. Epub 2012 May 7
  5. .
    Mutant SOD1-expressing astrocytes recover poisonous factors that trigger motoneuron genocide by inducing hyperexcitability.
    J Neurophysiol. 2013 Jun;109(11):2803-14. Epub 2013 Mar 13

External Citations

  1. Phase 2 trial
  2. National ALS Registry
  3. Phase 4 trial
  4. Phase 2 trial 


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    Astrocytes expressing mutant SOD1 and TDP43 trigger motoneuron genocide that is mediated around sodium channels and nitroxidative stress.
    Front Cell Neurosci. 2014;8:24. Epub 2014 Feb 7
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    Muscle Nerve. 2016 Jan 21;
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    Cortical excitability changes heed a engine neuron illness phenotypes from patrimonial spastic paraplegia.
    Eur J Neurol. 2015 May;22(5):826-31, e57-8. Epub 2015 Feb 12
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    Cortical hyperexcitability precedes reduce engine neuron dysfunction in ALS.
    Clin Neurophysiol. 2014 Aug 28;

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