Open-label, add-on trial of cetirizine for neuromyelitis optica

Ilana Katz Sand, Michelle T. Fabian, Russell Telford, Thomas A. Kraus, Mirna Chehade, Madhan Masilamani, Thomas Moran, Colleen Farrell, Shelly Ebel, Lawrence J. Cook, John Rose, Fred D. Lublin

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22 Scopus citations


Objective This pilot study preliminarily examined the efficacy and tolerability of cetirizine as an add-on to standard therapy for neuromyelitis optica (NMO). Methods Eligible participants met the Wingerchuk 2006 diagnostic criteria or had a single typical episode along with positive NMO immunoglobulin G. After baseline clinical and laboratory assessments, participants began treatment with cetirizine 10 mg orally daily, in addition to their usual disease-modifying therapy for NMO, and continued for 1 year. The primary end point was the annualized relapse rate (ARR) while on the same disease-modifying therapy before starting cetirizine compared with after taking cetirizine. Additional end points included disability (Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS]), relapse severity, tolerability, especially with respect to drowsiness measured by the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), and laboratory parameters. Results The ARR before cetirizine was 0.4 ± 0.80 and after cetirizine was 0.1 ± 0.24 (p = 0.047). There was no statistically significant difference in the EDSS (mean 3.9 ± 2.18 before the start of the study and 3.2 ± 2.31 at the conclusion of the study, p = 0.500). The ESS remained fairly consistent throughout the study (mean 6.5 ± 5.33 at baseline and 6.9 ± 4.50 at month 12, p = 0.740). Laboratory studies were unrevealing. Conclusions In this pilot study, cetirizine was well tolerated, and the prespecified primary efficacy end point was satisfied. However, the open-label design and the small sample size of this pilot study preclude definitive conclusions. Further research is needed. Classification of evidence This study provides Class IV evidence that in patients with NMO, the addition of cetirizine to standard therapy is safe, well tolerated, and reduces relapses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere441
JournalNeurology: Neuroimmunology and NeuroInflammation
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


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