Evaluation of Efficacy of Mirtazapine on Pruritus and Serum Histamine and Serotonin Levels in Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis: A Before-After Pilot Clinical Trial

Int J Nephrol Renovasc Dis. 2020 May 21:13:129-138. doi: 10.2147/IJNRD.S246393. eCollection 2020.


Background: Although chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus (CKD-aP) remains a frequent and frustrating symptom in patients with advanced kidney diseases, its optimal treatments are not well defined. Based on its mechanism of action, as a histamine-1 (H1), 5-(hydroxytryptamine) HT2, and 5HT3-receptor blocker, mirtazapine may be effective in the treatment of CKD-aP. Hence, this study aimed to investigate the efficacy of mirtazapine for the treatment of pruritus in patients undergoing hemodialysis (HD).

Methods: A before-after clinical trial was conducted from September 2018 until March 2019, on 30 HD-patients that had been referred to the HD ward of a tertiary hospital, in Hamadan, Iran. After the 2-week washout period, mirtazapine was administered with a dosage of 15 mg/day for an additional 2 weeks. At baseline and at each dialysis session, the effects of the mirtazapine on the pruritus severity based on the visual analogue scale (VAS) and degree of sleep interference resulting from the pruritus were asked and recorded. Additionally, at the baseline and the end of 2 weeks of treatment, the serum histamine and serotonin levels, as the main chemical pruritogens evoking pruritus symptoms, were also determined.

Results: Twenty-seven patients completed the entire course of the study. Based on the general linear model analysis, a progressive decline in the mean VAS score was observed over time during the study. The mean VAS score decreased from 8.48 ± 1.01 at baseline to 1.04 ±0.79 at the end of treatment (P-value<0.001). Similarly, the mean sleep interference scores were also significantly improved throughout treatment (decreased from 8.07±1.43 to 2.81± 0.74; P-value<0.001). Further, at the end of the treatment, a noticeable decrement in the serum histamine level was also seen (P-value = 0.006). The drug was acceptably well-tolerated and a majority of the patients were satisfied with this treatment.

Conclusion: This pilot study suggests that mirtazapine may be an effective treatment option for the management of CKD-aP. However, further studies would be needed to confirm these results.

Keywords: chronic kidney disease; histamine; mirtazapine; renal pruritus; serotonin.