Efficacy and safety of vamorolone in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: An 18-month interim analysis of a non-randomized open-label extension study

PLoS Med. 2020 Sep 21;17(9):e1003222. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003222. eCollection 2020 Sep.


Background: Treatment with corticosteroids is recommended for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients to slow the progression of weakness. However, chronic corticosteroid treatment causes significant morbidities. Vamorolone is a first-in-class anti-inflammatory investigational drug that has shown evidence of efficacy in DMD after 24 weeks of treatment at 2.0 or 6.0 mg/kg/day. Here, open-label efficacy and safety experience of vamorolone was evaluated over a period of 18 months in trial participants with DMD.

Methods and findings: A multicenter, open-label, 24-week trial (VBP15-003) with a 24-month long-term extension (VBP15-LTE) was conducted by the Cooperative International Neuromuscular Research Group (CINRG) and evaluated drug-related effects of vamorolone on motor outcomes and corticosteroid-associated safety concerns. The study was carried out in Canada, US, UK, Australia, Sweden, and Israel, from 2016 to 2019. This report covers the initial 24-week trial and the first 12 months of the VBP15-LTE trial (total treatment period 18 months). DMD trial participants (males, 4 to <7 years at entry) treated with 2.0 or 6.0 mg/kg/day vamorolone for the full 18-month period (n = 23) showed clinical improvement of all motor outcomes from baseline to month 18 (time to stand velocity, p = 0.012 [95% CI 0.010, 0.068 event/second]; run/walk 10 meters velocity, p < 0.001 [95% CI 0.220, 0.491 meters/second]; climb 4 stairs velocity, p = 0.001 [95% CI 0.034, 0.105 event/second]; 6-minute walk test, p = 0.001 [95% CI 31.14, 93.38 meters]; North Star Ambulatory Assessment, p < 0.001 [95% CI 2.702, 6.662 points]). Outcomes in vamorolone-treated DMD patients (n = 46) were compared to group-matched participants in the CINRG Duchenne Natural History Study (corticosteroid-naïve, n = 19; corticosteroid-treated, n = 68) over a similar 18-month period. Time to stand was not significantly different between vamorolone-treated and corticosteroid-naïve participants (p = 0.088; least squares [LS] mean 0.042 [95% CI -0.007, 0.091]), but vamorolone-treated participants showed significant improvement compared to group-matched corticosteroid-naïve participants for run/walk 10 meters velocity (p = 0.003; LS mean 0.286 [95% CI 0.104, 0.469]) and climb 4 stairs velocity (p = 0.027; LS mean 0.059 [95% CI 0.007, 0.111]). The vamorolone-related improvements were similar in magnitude to corticosteroid-related improvements. Corticosteroid-treated participants showed stunting of growth, whereas vamorolone-treated trial participants did not (p < 0.001; LS mean 15.86 [95% CI 8.51, 23.22]). Physician-reported incidences of adverse events (AEs) for Cushingoid appearance, hirsutism, weight gain, and behavior change were less for vamorolone than published incidences for prednisone and deflazacort. Key limitations to the study were the open-label design, and use of external comparators.

Conclusions: We observed that vamorolone treatment was associated with improvements in some motor outcomes as compared with corticosteroid-naïve individuals over an 18-month treatment period. We found that fewer physician-reported AEs occurred with vamorolone than have been reported for treatment with prednisone and deflazacort, and that vamorolone treatment did not cause the stunting of growth seen with these corticosteroids. This Phase IIa study provides Class III evidence to support benefit of motor function in young boys with DMD treated with vamorolone 2.0 to 6.0 mg/kg/day, with a favorable safety profile. A Phase III RCT is underway to further investigate safety and efficacy.

Trial registration: Clinical trials were registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov, and the links to each trial are as follows (as provided in manuscript text): VBP15-002 [NCT02760264] VBP15-003 [NCT02760277] VBP15-LTE [NCT03038399].

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Progression
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / drug therapy*
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Pregnadienediols / metabolism
  • Pregnadienediols / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / physiology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Pregnadienediols
  • VBP15 compound
  • Prednisone

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02760264
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03038399
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02760277