Efficacy and safety of a novel ĸ-agonist for managing intractable pruritus in dialysis patients

Hiroo Kumagai, Toshiya Ebata, Kenji Takamori, Katsumasa Miyasato, Taro Muramatsu, Hidetomo Nakamoto, Masanao Kurihara, Tomoji Yanagita, Hiromichi Suzuki
American Journal of Nephrology 2012, 36 (2): 175-83

BACKGROUND: Our previous placebo-controlled, prospective, double-blind study demonstrated that a new opioid ĸ-receptor agonist, nalfurafine hydrochloride, effectively reduced treatment-resistant pruritus in 337 hemodialysis patients. Thus, we designed this study to evaluate prospectively the efficacy, safety, addiction liability, and pharmacokinetics of nalfurafine given orally for 1 year.

METHODS: This open-label study examined the effects and adverse drug reactions (ADRs) of 52-week oral administration of nalfurafine hydrochloride (5 µg/day) in 211 hemodialysis patients with a treatment-resistant itch.

RESULTS: Of 211 patients, 145 completed the study as scheduled. The mean pruritus value assessed by the visual analogue scale was 75.2 mm during the pre-observation period, which decreased significantly to 50.9 and 30.9 mm in week 2 and 52, respectively, indicating a long-lasting efficacy. ADRs occurred in 103 patients (48.8%). Frequent ADRs were insomnia (sleep disturbance, 19.4%), constipation (7.1%) and increased blood prolactin (3.3%), similar to previous reports. Regarding addiction liability, it appeared unlikely that nalfurafine hydrochloride was abused. After the start of treatment, plasma drug levels reached a steady state in week 2 with no apparent tendency of systemic accumulation.

CONCLUSIONS: Nalfurafine hydrochloride, orally administered at 5 µg/day for 52 weeks to hemodialysis patients, produced a long-term suppression of pruritus without significant safety problems.

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