A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of deprenyl and thioctic acid in human immunodeficiency virus-associated cognitive impairment

The Dana Consortium on the Therapy of HIV Dementia and Related Cognitive Disorders; Kieburtz, Karl; Schifitto, Giovanni; McDermott, Michael; Bourgeois, Keith; Palumbo, Donna; Orme, Connie; Zimmerman, Carol; Gelbard, Harris; Hickey, Charlyne; Casaceli, Cindy; Guthrie, Barry; Rumfola, Lisa; Plumb, Sandy; Rudolph, Alice; Kamp, Cornelia; Epstein, Leon; Marder, Karen; Albert, Steven; Dooneief, George; Stern, Yaakov; Todak, George; Friedman-Clouse, Ronda; Polanco, Carmen; Winston, Thomas; Mayeux, Richard; Sacktor, Ned; Selnes, Ola; Hasenauer, Deborah; Esposito, Deneen; Nance-Sproson, Letitia; McArthur, Justin; O'Sullivan, James; Shoulson, Ira; Oakes, David; Reichman, Richard

Cognitive impairment is a frequent manifestation of advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The response to antiretroviral medication is often partial and poorly sustained. Recent studies suggest that free radical production within the CNS and neuronal apoptosis may play important roles in the pathogenesis of HIV dementia. We conducted a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial using a parallel group, 2× 2 factorial design evaluating deprenyl, a monoamine oxidase B inhibitor and putative anti-apoptotic agent, and thioctic acid, an antioxidant, in 36 patients with HIV-associated cognitive impairment. Both deprenyl and thioctic acid were well tolerated with few adverse events. Deprenyl recipients showed significant improvement on tests of verbal memory compared with patients not taking deprenyl. Thioctic acid treatment did not improve cognitive function. These results suggest that deprenyl treatment is associated with cognitive improvement in subjects with mild HIV-associated cognitive impairment, whereas thioctic acid has no benefit. A larger efficacy trial is needed to assess the long-term effect of deprenyl on cognitive performance in patients with HIV infection.

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-associated dementia complex(HIV dementia) occurs in 15 to 20% of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome(AIDS) patients and is characterized by cognitive impairment, motor dysfunction, and behavioral changes.1-5 The cognitive impairment includes mental slowing, forgetfulness, and poor concentration. Motor symptoms include loss of fine motor control, clumsiness, unsteady gait, and tremor. Behavioral changes include apathy, lethargy, and depression.2,3,6 HIV dementia is usually a rapidly progressive disorder with a mean survival of about 6 months,2 although recently, patients with slower progression or a stable course have been identified.7 HIV-1-associated minor cognitive motor disorder, a milder syndrome, is estimated to occur in 25% of patients with symptomatic HIV infection.8

Few available antiretroviral agents have been studied for the treatment of HIV dementia. Open label studies with zidovudine (ZDV) in demented patients showed improvements in clinical functioning, neuropsychological performance, and neuroimaging studies.9 ZDV, in a placebo-controlled blinded study, also improved neuropsychological function in AIDS or AIDS-related complex patients without dementia.10 The only placebo-controlled trial of ZDV in HIV dementia demonstrated the greatest neurocognitive improvement only with very high dosages (i.e., 2,000 mg/day).11 Unfortunately, the response to ZDV treatment may be short-lived or associated with intolerable side effects and therefore often unsatisfactory. There is very limited information about the therapeutic effects of other antiretroviral medications (e.g., dideoxynucleosides)12 or protease inhibitors.

Neurotoxins from HIV-infected activated macrophages or microglia interacting with astrocytes may play a central pathogenetic role in HIV dementia.13,14 Putative neurotoxins include cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α]) and oxygen radicals.2,15 Both TNF-α and hydroxyl free radicals may stimulate apoptosis (programmed cell death), and apoptotic neurons have been demonstrated in the cerebral cortex and basal ganglia of both children and adults with HIV encephalitis.16,17

We hypothesized that these indirect mechanisms of neuronal injury could be modified by deprenyl and thioctic acid to improve or even prevent HIV-associated cognitive impairment. Deprenyl, a selective monoamine oxidase type B inhibitor, at very low dosages in in vitro and in vivo systems has a trophic effect on injured neurons.18-21 Thioctic acid is a naturally occurring enzymatic cofactor for pyruvate dehydrogenase and alpha oxoglutarate dehydrogenase and scavenges harmful hydroxyl radicals and other reactive oxygen species.22,23

We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of deprenyl and thioctic acid to assess their safety and tolerability and to assess their impact on HIV-associated cognitive impairment in HIV seropositive (HIV+) patients.



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February 11, 2022