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Preliminary Communication
October 3, 2012

Mexiletine for Symptoms and Signs of Myotonia in Nondystrophic Myotonia: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Neurology, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York (Drs Statland, Ciafaloni, and Griggs); Pediatrics Epidemiology Center, University of South Florida, Tampa (Dr Bundy); Department of Neurology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City (Drs Wang and Barohn and Ms Herbelin); Medical Research Council Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases, University College London, Institute of Neurology, London, England (Drs Rayan, Matthews, and Hanna); Department of Neurology, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas (Dr Trivedi); Department of Neurology, University of Milan, Istituti di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Policlinico San Donato, Milan, Italy (Drs Sansone and Meola); Department of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Salajegheh); and Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences, London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, Canada (Dr Venance).

JAMA. 2012;308(13):1357-1365. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.12607

Context Nondystrophic myotonias (NDMs) 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 small studies; however, as is common in rare diseases, larger studies of safety and efficacy have not previously been considered feasible.

Objective To determine the effects of mexiletine for symptoms and signs of myotonia in patients with NDMs.

Design, Setting, and Participants A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled 2-period crossover study at 7 neuromuscular referral centers in 4 countries of 59 patients with NDMs conducted between December 23, 2008, and March 30, 2011, as part of the National Institutes of Health–funded Rare Disease Clinical Research Network.

Intervention Oral 200-mg mexiletine or placebo capsules 3 times daily for 4 weeks, followed by the opposite intervention for 4 weeks, with 1-week washout in between.

Main Outcome Measures Patient-reported severity score of stiffness recorded on an interactive voice response (IVR) diary (scale of 1 = minimal to 9 = worst ever experienced). Secondary end points included IVR-reported changes in pain, weakness, and tiredness; clinical myotonia assessment; quantitative measure of handgrip myotonia; and Individualized Neuromuscular Quality of Life summary quality of life score (INQOL–QOL, percentage of maximal detrimental impact).

Results Mexiletine significantly improved patient-reported severity score stiffness on the IVR diary. Because of a statistically significant interaction between treatment and period for this outcome, primary end point is presented by period (period 1 means were 2.53 for mexiletine and 4.21 for placebo; difference, −1.68; 95% CI, −2.66 to −0.706; P < .001; period 2 means were 1.60 for mexiletine and 5.27 for placebo; difference, −3.68; 95% CI, −3.85 to −0.139; P = .04). Mexiletine improved the INQOL–QOL score (mexiletine, 14.0 vs placebo, 16.7; difference, −2.69; 95% CI, −4.07 to −1.30; P < .001) and decreased handgrip myotonia on clinical examination (mexiletine, 0.164 seconds vs placebo, 0.494 seconds; difference, −0.330; 95% CI, −0.633 to −0.142; P < .001). The most common adverse effect was gastrointestinal (9 mexiletine and 1 placebo). Two participants experienced transient cardiac effects that did not require stopping the study (1 in each group). One serious adverse event was determined to be not study related.

Conclusion In this preliminary study of patients with NDMs, 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.

Trial Registration clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00832000