Background: Most totally blind people have non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder (non-24), a rare circadian rhythm disorder caused by an inability of light to reset their circadian pacemaker. In two consecutive placebo-controlled trials (SET and RESET), we assessed safety and efficacy (in terms of circadian entrainment and maintenance) of once-daily tasimelteon, a novel dual-melatonin receptor agonist.
Methods: We undertook the placebo-controlled, randomised, double-masked trials in 27 US and six German clinical research centres and sleep centres. We screened totally blind adults (18-75 years of age), who were eligible for the randomisation phase of SET if they had a non-24-hour circadian period (τ) of 24·25 h or longer (95% CI greater than 24·0 and up to 24·9 h), as calculated from measurements of urinary 6-sulphatoxymelatonin rhythms. For SET, we used block randomisation to assign patients (1:1) to receive tasimelteon (20 mg) or placebo every 24 h at a fixed clock time 1 h before target bedtime for 26 weeks. Patients who entered the open-label group receiving tasimelteon in SET or who did not meet the SET inclusion criteria but did meet the RESET inclusion criteria were screened for RESET. A subset of the patients who entered the open-label group before the RESET study and who had eligible τ values were screened for RESET after completing the open-label treatment. In RESET, we withdrew tasimelteon in a randomised manner (1:1) in patients who responded (ie, entrained) after a tasimelteon run-in period. Entrainment was defined as having τ of 24·1 h or less and a 95% CI that included 24·0 h. In SET, the primary endpoint was the proportion of entrained patients, assessed in the intention-to-treat population. The planned step-down primary endpoint assessed the proportion of patients who had a clinical response (entrainment at month 1 or month 7 plus clinical improvement, measured by the Non-24 Clinical Response Scale). In RESET, the primary endpoint was the proportion of non-entrained patients, assessed in the intention-to-treat population. Safety assessments included adverse events and clinical laboratory measures, assessed in all treated patients. These trials are registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, numbers NCT01163032 and NCT01430754.
Findings: Between Aug 25, 2010, and July 5, 2012, we screened 391 totally blind patients for SET, of whom 84 (22%) were assigned to receive tasimelteon (n=42) or placebo (n=42). Two patients in the tasimelteon group and four in the placebo group discontinued the study before τ was measured, due to adverse events, withdrawal of consent, and a protocol deviation. Circadian entrainment occurred in eight (20%) of 40 patients in the tasimelteon group compared with one (3%) of 38 patients in the placebo group at month 1 (difference 17%, 95% CI 3·2-31·6; p=0·0171). Nine (24%) of 38 patients showed a clinical response, compared with none of 34 in the placebo group (difference 24%, 95% CI 8·4-39·0; p=0·0028). Between Sept 15, 2011, and Oct 4, 2012, we screened 58 patients for eligibility in RESET, 48 (83%) of whom had τ assessed and entered the open-label tasimelteon run-in phase. 24 (50%) patients entrained, and 20 (34%) were enrolled in the randomisation phase. Two (20%) of ten patients who were withdrawn to placebo remained entrained compared with nine (90%) of ten who continued to receive tasimelteon (difference 70%, 95% CI 26·4-100·0; p=0·0026). No deaths were reported in either study, and discontinuation rates due to adverse events were comparable between the tasimelteon (3 [6%] of 52 patients) and placebo (2 [4%] of 52 patients) treatment courses. The most common side-effects associated with tasimelteon in SET were headache (7 [17%] of 42 patients given tasimelteon vs 3 [7%] of 42 patients given placebo), elevated liver enzymes (4 [10%] vs 2 [5%]), nightmares or abnormal dreams (4 [10%] vs none), upper respiratory tract infection (3 [7%] vs none], and urinary tract infections (3 [7%] vs 1 [2%]).
Interpretation: Once-daily tasimelteon can entrain totally blind people with non-24; however, continued tasimelteon treatment is necessary to maintain these improvements.
Funding: Vanda Pharmaceuticals.
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