Use of Prescription Sialagogues for Management of Xerostomia in Chronic Graft-versus-Host-Disease

Transplant Cell Ther. 2021 Jun;27(6):480.e1-480.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jtct.2021.02.020. Epub 2021 Feb 25.


The aim of this study is to analyze utilization patterns of prescription sialagogues for management of xerostomia in patients with chronic graft-versus-host disease (cGVHD) after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (alloHSCT). There have been several small reports describing the clinical use of sialagogue therapy in the management of patients with cGVHD. While these reports suggest that sialagogue therapy is safe and effective in this unique patient population, the numbers of patients reported, and overall evidence base, remain limited. The objective of this study was to characterize medication utilization and treatment outcomes in a cohort of patients with cGVHD and xerostomia who were prescribed sialagogue therapy. A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients who were diagnosed with cGVHD and prescribed sialagogue therapy for xerostomia from 2005 to 2019. Data collected included patient demographics, date of alloHSCT, date of oral cGVHD diagnosis, concurrent immunosuppressive medications, sialagogue regimen, worst xerostomia score (on a 1 to 10 scale), and patient-reported outcomes. The study included 70 patients managed with pilocarpine (n = 57) and cevimeline (n = 13), with a median age of 62 years (range: 24 to 82). Overall median duration of therapy was 7 months (range: 1 to 154). The baseline median self-reported worst xerostomia score was 6 of 10. Median percent reported improvement was 10%, 40%, and 50% for FU1 (<6 months), FU2 (6 to 12 months), and FU3 (>12 months) accordingly. Most patients who reported lower percentage improvement utilized the medication for less than 6 months, and those with moderate response were compliant for longer than 6 months. When all patients were considered, there was a significant reduction (median of 1.5 points; range: 0 to 7) in the xerostomia score from pre (median: 6.5; range: 1 to 10) to post (median: 5; range: 0 to 10) (P< .001). Most common side effects were nausea (2.9%) and diarrhea (1.4%). Patients with cGVHD and xerostomia reported improvement in symptoms with sialagogue therapy and remained on medication for a median of 7 months with infrequent side effects. The sustained duration of therapy suggests perceived benefits, though prospective, blinded, and randomized studies are needed.

Keywords: Allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation; Cevimeline; Graft-versus-host disease; Hyposalivation; Pilocarpine; Sialagogue; Xerostomia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Graft vs Host Disease* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prescriptions
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Xerostomia* / drug therapy
  • Young Adult