Background: Tetrabenazine (TBZ) selectively depletes central monoamines by reversibly binding to the type-2 vesicular monoamine transporter. A previous double blind study in Huntington disease (HD) demonstrated that TBZ effectively suppressed chorea, with a favorable short-term safety profile (Neurology 2006;66:366-372). The objective of this study was to assess the long-term safety and effectiveness of TBZ for chorea in HD.
Methods: Subjects who completed the 13-week, double blind protocol were invited to participate in this open label extension study for up to 80 weeks. Subjects were titrated to the best individual dose or a maximum of 200 mg/day. Chorea was assessed using the Total Maximal Chorea (TMC) score from the Unified Huntington Disease Rating Scale.
Results: Of the 75 participants, 45 subjects completed 80 weeks. Three participants terminated due to adverse events (AEs) including depression, delusions with associated previous suicidal behavior, and vocal tics. One subject died due to breast cancer. The other 26 subjects chose not to continue on with each ensuing extension for various reasons. When mild and unrelated AEs were excluded, the most commonly reported AEs (number of subjects) were sedation/somnolence (18), depressed mood (17), anxiety (13), insomnia (10), and akathisia (9). Parkinsonism and dysarthria [corrected] scores were significantly increased at week 80 compared to baseline. At week 80, chorea had significantly improved from baseline with a mean reduction in the TMC score of 4.6 (SD 5.5) units. The mean dosage at week 80 was 63.4 mg (range 12.5-175 mg).
Conclusions: TBZ effectively suppresses HD-related chorea for up to 80 weeks. Patients treated chronically with TBZ should be monitored for parkinsonism, dysphagia and other side effects including sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, and akathisia.
Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov registration number (initial study): NCT00219804.