Rationale: Glutathione is the major antioxidant in the extracellular lining fluid of the lungs and depleted in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF).
Objectives: We aimed to assess glutathione delivered by inhalation as a potential treatment for CF lung disease.
Methods: This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluated inhaled glutathione in subjects with CF 8 years of age and older and FEV1 of 40-90% of predicted. Subjects were randomized to receive 646 mg glutathione in 4 ml (n = 73) or placebo (n = 80) via an investigational eFlow nebulizer every 12 hours for 6 months.
Measurements and main results: FEV1 (absolute values), both as pre-post differences (P = 0.180) and as area under the curves (P = 0.205), were the primary efficacy endpoints, and were not different between the glutathione group and the placebo group over the 6-month treatment period. Exploratory analysis showed an increase of FEV1 from baseline over placebo of 100 ml or 2.2% predicted; this was significant at 3 months, but not later. Subjects receiving glutathione had neither fewer pulmonary exacerbations, nor better scores for quality of life. Whereas increased glutathione and metabolites in sputum demonstrated significant delivery to the lungs, there was no indication of diminished oxidative stress to proteins or lipids, and no evidence for anti-inflammatory or antiproteolytic actions of glutathione supplemented to the airways. The adverse event incidence was similar between glutathione and placebo.
Conclusions: Inhaled glutathione in the dose administered did not demonstrate clinically relevant improvements in lung function, pulmonary exacerbation frequency, or patient-reported outcomes. Glutathione delivery to the airways was not associated with changes in markers of oxidation, proteolysis, or inflammation. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT00506688) and https://eudract.ema.europa.eu/index.html (EudraCT 2005-003870-88).