Oral levosimendan in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a phase II multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2019 Oct;90(10):1165-1170. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2018-320288. Epub 2019 Jul 17.


Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of oral levosimendan in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This phase II, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover, three-period study with 6 months open-label follow-up enrolled adults with ALS and sitting slow vital capacity (SVC) 60%-90 % of predicted from 11 sites in four countries.

Methods: Patients received levosimendan 1 mg daily, 1 mg two times a day or placebo during three 14-day crossover periods and levosimendan 1-2 mg daily during open-label follow-up. Primary endpoint was sitting SVC; secondary endpoints included supine SVC, ALS Functional Rating Scale-Revised (ALSFRS-R), tolerability and safety.

Results: Of 66 patients randomised, 59 contributed to the double-blind results and 50 entered open-label follow-up. Sitting SVC was not significantly different between the treatments. In post hoc analysis using period-wise baselines, supine SVC favoured levosimendan over placebo, estimated mean differences from baseline being -3.62% on placebo, +0.77% on levosimendan 1 mg daily (p=0.018) and +2.38% on 1 mg two times a day (p=0.001). Headache occurred in 16.7% of patients during levosimendan 1 mg daily (p=0.030), 28.6% during 1 mg two times a day (p=0.002) and 3.3% during placebo. The respective frequencies for increased heart rate were 5.1% (p=0.337), 18.5% (p=0.018) and 1.7%. No significant differences between the treatments were seen for other adverse events.

Conclusions: Levosimendan did not achieve the primary endpoint of improving sitting SVC in ALS. Headache and increased heart rate were increased on levosimendan, although it was otherwise well tolerated. A phase III study to evaluate the longer term effects of oral levosimendan in ALS is ongoing.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02487407.

Keywords: SVC; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; levosimendan; respiratory function.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phosphodiesterase 3 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Simendan / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vital Capacity / physiology*


  • Phosphodiesterase 3 Inhibitors
  • Simendan

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2014-004567-21
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02487407