Efficacy and Safety of Vamorolone vs Placebo and Prednisone Among Boys With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Neurol. 2022 Oct 1;79(10):1005-1014. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.2480.


Importance: Corticosteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are widely prescribed but long-term use shows adverse effects that detract from patient quality of life.

Objective: To determine if vamorolone, a structurally unique dissociative steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, is able to retain efficacy while reducing safety concerns with use in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Design, setting, and participants: Randomized, double-blind, placebo- and prednisone-controlled 24-week clinical trial, conducted from June 29, 2018, to February 24, 2021, with 24 weeks of follow-up. This was a multicenter study (33 referral centers in 11 countries) and included boys 4 to younger than 7 years of age with genetically confirmed DMD not previously treated with corticosteroids.

Interventions: The study included 4 groups: placebo; prednisone, 0.75 mg/kg per day; vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day; and vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day.

Main outcomes and measures: Study outcomes monitored (1) efficacy, which included motor outcomes (primary: time to stand from supine velocity in the vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, group vs placebo; secondary: time to stand from supine velocity [vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day], 6-minute walk distance, time to run/walk 10 m [vamorolone, 2 and 6 mg/kg per day]; exploratory: NorthStar Ambulatory Assessment, time to climb 4 stairs) and (2) safety, which included growth, bone biomarkers, and a corticotropin (ACTH)-challenge test.

Results: Among the 133 boys with DMD enrolled in the study (mean [SD] age, 5.4 [0.9] years), 121 were randomly assigned to treatment groups, and 114 completed the 24-week treatment period. The trial met the primary end point for change from baseline to week 24 time to stand velocity for vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day (least-squares mean [SE] velocity, 0.05 [0.01] m/s vs placebo -0.01 [0.01] m/s; 95% CI, 0.02-0.10; P = .002) and the first 4 sequential secondary end points: time to stand velocity, vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day, vs placebo; 6-minute walk test, vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, vs placebo; 6-minute walk test, vamorolone, 2 mg/kg per day, vs placebo; and time to run/walk 10 m velocity, vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, vs placebo. Height percentile declined in prednisone-treated (not vamorolone-treated) participants (change from baseline [SD]: prednisone, -1.88 [8.81] percentile vs vamorolone, 6 mg/kg per day, +3.86 [6.16] percentile; P = .02). Bone turnover markers declined with prednisone but not with vamorolone. Boys with DMD at baseline showed low ACTH-stimulated cortisol and high incidence of adrenal insufficiency. All 3 treatment groups led to increased adrenal insufficiency.

Conclusions and relevance: In this pivotal randomized clinical trial, vamorolone was shown to be effective and safe in the treatment of boys with DMD over a 24-week treatment period. Vamorolone may be a safer alternative than prednisone in this disease, in which long-term corticosteroid use is the standard of care.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03439670.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Adrenal Insufficiency* / chemically induced
  • Adrenal Insufficiency* / drug therapy
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Biomarkers
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne* / drug therapy
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Prednisone
  • Hydrocortisone

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03439670