Background: Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease lose the capacity to fully excrete endogenous acid, resulting in chronic metabolic acidosis that increases the risk of disease progression and causes muscle catabolism and bone resorption. Veverimer, a non-absorbed, counterion-free, polymeric drug, selectively binds and removes hydrochloric acid from the gastrointestinal lumen, unlike current oral sodium bicarbonate therapy for metabolic acidosis that only neutralises accumulated acid. We assessed the efficacy and safety of veverimer as a treatment for metabolic acidosis in patients with chronic kidney disease.
Methods: We did a multicentre, parallel, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study at 37 sites (hospitals and specialty clinics) in Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and the USA. Eligible participants were patients aged 18-85 years with non-dialysis-dependent chronic kidney disease (estimated glomerular filtration rate of 20-40 mL/min per 1·73 m2) and metabolic acidosis (serum bicarbonate concentration of 12-20 mmol/L). Patients were randomly assigned (4:3) to veverimer 6 g/day or placebo for 12 weeks while they consumed their typical diet. Both drugs were taken as oral suspensions in water with lunch. Randomisation was done by study site personnel with a computer-generated randomisation code with balanced permuted blocks (block size of seven) and stratified by baseline bicarbonate (≤18 mmol/L vs >18 mmol/L). Patients and investigators were masked to treatment allocation; however, because the appearance of placebo differed from veverimer, a non-masked site staff member who had no other role in the study dispensed, prepared, and supervised dosing of the study drugs. The composite primary efficacy endpoint was the difference (veverimer-placebo) in the proportion of patients achieving at week 12 either an increase of 4 mmol/L or more from baseline in serum bicarbonate concentration or serum bicarbonate in the normal range of 22-29 mmol/L, assessed in the modified intention-to-treat population (all patients with a baseline and at least one post-baseline serum bicarbonate value). Patients fasted for at least 4 h (consuming only water) before measurements of bicarbonate. Safety was assessed in all patients who received any amount of study drug. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT03317444.
Findings: Between Sept 26, 2017, and Feb 9, 2018, we randomly assigned 124 participants to veverimer and 93 to placebo. The composite primary endpoint was met by 71 (59%) of 120 patients in the veverimer group versus 20 (22%) of 89 patients in the placebo group (a difference of 37%, 95% CI 23-49; p<0·0001). The most common body system in which adverse events in the veverimer group occurred was gastrointestinal; of these, non-treatment limiting diarrhoea was the most common event (11 [9%] vs three [3%] in the veverimer and placebo groups, respectively). The most common treatment-related adverse events were gastrointestinal (diarrhoea, flatulence, nausea, and constipation) occurring in 16 (13%) patients with veverimer and five (5%) patients with placebo. Two deaths occurred during the study, both in the placebo group (unstable angina and pneumonia).
Interpretation: Veverimer effectively and safely corrected metabolic acidosis. Longer-term studies are warranted to assess the effects of veverimer on physical functioning and to assess other deleterious consequences of metabolic acidosis including progression of chronic kidney disease and bone health.
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