Vamorolone versus placebo and prednisone in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: A randomized clinical trial

Importance  Corticosteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are widely prescribed but long-term use shows adverse effects that detract from patient quality of life.

Objective  To determine if vamorolone, a structurally unique dissociative steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is able to retain efficacy while reducing safety concerns with use in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Design, Setting, and Participants  Randomized, double-blind, placebo- and prednisone-controlled 24-week clinical trial, conducted from June 29, 2018, to February 24, 2021, with 24 weeks of follow-up. This was a multicenter study (33 referral centers in 11 countries) and included boys 4 to younger than 7 years of age with genetically confirmed DMD not previously treated with corticosteroids.

Interventions  The study included 4 groups: placebo; prednisone, 0.75 mg/kg per day; vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day; and vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Study outcomes monitored (1) efficacy, which included motor outcomes (primary: time to stand from supine velocity in the vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, group vs placebo; secondary: time to stand from supine velocity [vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day], 6-minute walk distance, time to run/walk 10 m [vamorolone, 2 and 6 mg/kg per day]; exploratory: NorthStar Ambulatory Assessment, time to climb 4 stairs) and (2) safety, which included growth, bone biomarkers, and a corticotropin (ACTH)–challenge test.

Results  Among the 133 boys with DMD enrolled in the study (mean [SD] age, 5.4 [0.9] years), 121 were randomly assigned to treatment groups, and 114 completed the 24-week treatment period. The trial met the primary end point for change from baseline to week 24 time to stand velocity for vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day (least-squares mean [SE] velocity, 0.05 [0.01] m/s vs placebo −0.01 [0.01] m/s; 95% CI, 0.02-0.10; P = .002) and the first 4 sequential secondary end points: time to stand velocity, vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day, vs placebo; 6-minute walk test, vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, vs placebo; 6-minute walk test, vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day, vs placebo; and time to run/walk 10 m velocity, vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, vs placebo. Height percentile declined in prednisone-treated (not vamorolone-treated) participants (change from baseline [SD]: prednisone, −1.88 [8.81] percentile vs vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, +3.86 [6.16] percentile; P = .02). Bone turnover markers declined with prednisone but not with vamorolone. Boys with DMD at baseline showed low ACTH-stimulated cortisol and high incidence of adrenal insufficiency. All 3 treatment groups led to increased adrenal insufficiency.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this pivotal randomized clinical trial, vamorolone was shown to be effective and safe in the treatment of boys with DMD over a 24-week treatment period. Vamorolone may be a safer alternative than prednisone in this disease, in which long-term corticosteroid use is the standard of care.

Areas of Research: Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Leanne Ward

    Senior Scientist, CHEO Research Institute

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