A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study was undertaken to evaluate the safety and tolerability of a once-daily oral administration of metrifonate in patients with probable mild to moderate Alzheimer disease. Metrifonate was given as a loading dose of 125–225 mg based on weight (2.5 mg/kg) for 2 weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 50–90 mg based on weight (1.0 mg/kg) for 4 weeks. Twenty-nine patients received metrifonate, and 10 patients received placebo. Metrifonate produced a mean erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase inhibition at the end of treatment of 86.3%. The proportion of patients who experienced at least one adverse event was comparable between the metrifonate (76%) and placebo (80%) groups. Selected adverse events in disfavor of metrifonate (defined as those for which the incidence in the metrifonate and placebo groups differed by at least 10%) were diarrhea, nausea, leg cramps, and accidental injury. Adverse events were predominantly mild in intensity and transient. No severe adverse events were experienced by any patient. The most notable hemodynamic change observed during metrifonate treatment was a clinically insignificant mean decrease in the heart rate (by electrocardiogram) of approximately 9 beats/min, compared with an approximate 3-beats/min decrease for the placebo group. No muscle weakness was observed in this study. No clinically relevant laboratory abnormalities, such as liver toxicity, or changes in exercise tolerance or pulmonary function tests were found with metrifonate treatment. This metrifonate dose provided a high level of acetylcholinesterase inhibition, which was associated in these patients with a favorable safety and tolerability profile. Indeed, the magnitude of the peripheral acetylcholinesterase inhibition is the highest tolerable inhibition level yet observed.
Burke Medical Research Institute and Hospital, White Plains, New York, U.S.A.; *Pharmaceutical Division, Bayer Corporation, West Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Received January 21, 1998.
Accepted June 15, 1999.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to John P. Blass, M.D., Ph.D., Burke Medical Research Institute and Hospital, Dementia Research Service, 785 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605, U.S.A.
Members of The Metrifonate Study Group are listed in the Appendix.