Non-dystrophic myotonias (NDM) are rare diseases caused by mutations in skeletal muscle ion channels. Patients experience delayed muscle relaxation causing functionally-limiting stiffness and pain. Mexiletine-induced sodium channel blockade reduced myotonia in case studies and one single blind trial. As is common in rare diseases, larger studies of safety and efficacy have not previously been considered feasible.
To determine the effects of mexiletine for symptoms and signs of myotonia in NDM.
Design, Setting, and Participation
Fifty-nine patients with NDM participated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled two-period crossover study conducted between December 23, 2008 and March 30, 2011 at 7 neuromuscular referral centers in 4 countries, as part of the NIH-funded Rare Disease Clinical Research Network.
Oral 200 mg mexiletine or placebo capsules three times daily for 4 weeks, followed by the opposite intervention for 4 weeks, with 1 week wash-out between periods.
Main Outcome Measures
Patient-reported stiffness recorded on an interactive voice response diary (IVR) was the primary endpoint (1 ‘minimal’ to 9 ‘worst ever experienced’). Secondary endpoints included IVR-reported changes in pain, weakness, and tiredness, clinical myotonia assessment, quantitative grip myotonia, Individualized Neuromuscular Quality of Life (INQoL, percent of maximal detrimental impact), SF-36, electrophysiological exercise testing, and needle EMG.
Mexiletine significantly improved patient-reported stiffness on the IVR. Because of a statistically significant interaction between treatment and period for this outcome, primary endpoint is presented by period (period 1 means were mexiletine 2.53 versus placebo 4.21, difference −1.68, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] −2.66, −0.706, P<0.001; period 2 means were mexiletine 1.60 versus placebo 5.27, difference −3.68, 95% CI −3.85, −0.139, P=0.04). Mexiletine improved the INQoL QOL score (mexiletine 14.0, placebo 16.7, difference −2.69, 95% CI −4.07, −1.30, P<0.001) and decreased handgrip myotonia on clinical exam (seconds: mexiletine 0.164, placebo 0.494, difference −0.330, 95% CI −0.633, −0.142, P<0.001). The most common adverse effect was gastrointestinal (9 mexiletine, 1 placebo). Two participants experienced transient cardiac effects that did not require stopping the study (1 placebo, 1 mexiletine). One serious adverse event was determined to be not study-related.
In this preliminary study of patients with NDM, the use of mexiletine compared with placebo resulted in improved patient-reported stiffness over 4 weeks of treatment, despite some concern about the maintenance of blinding.
Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT 00832000