WASHINGTON – Treatment with an oral formulation of budesonide was associated with significant improvements in dysphagia and esophageal eosinophil counts in adolescents and adults with eosinophilic esophagitis, in a study that is also the first to use a recently validated scoring instrument to evaluate medical therapy for this disorder in a randomized trial.
Results of the multicenter, double-blind, randomized study comparing treatment with an oral budesonide suspension to placebo for 12 weeks in almost 100 patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) were reported in two separate presentations at the annual Digestive Disease Week. One of the investigators, Dr. Evan Dellon of the Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease, at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said that treatment with this “mucoadherent” formulation of the topical steroid was associated with significant improvements in dysphagia symptoms, as measured with the Dysphagia Symptom Questionnaire (DSQ), and a histologic response rate of 39%, vs. 3% among those on placebo.
“The study not only adds to the evidence that topical budesonide is effective for inducing histologic response in subjects with active EoE, but [also] shows for the first time that symptoms of dysphagia, as measured with a validated symptom instrument, improve concordantly with the histologic and endoscopic findings,” Dr. Dellon said in an interview after the meeting. “Moreover, this study shows that a topical steroid formulation designed specifically for EoE, rather than an asthma formulation that is adapted for esophageal use, will likely be a beneficial and potentially preferred clinical treatment option.”
Another study investigator, Dr. Ikuo Hirano, professor of medicine and director of the gastroenterology and hepatology fellowship program at Northwestern University, Chicago, reported that treatment was also associated with significant improvements in the EoE Endoscopic Reference Score, EREFS, which was designed to classify and grade the severity of five major endoscopic features of EoE: edema, rings, exudates, furrows, and stricture formation. This was the first study to use this validated endoscopic scoring instrument in a randomized controlled trial of a medical therapy in patients with EoE, he said at the meeting.
The study was conducted between 2012 and 2014 at 25 U.S. sites, in patients aged 11-40 years with EoE. Baseline demographic and endoscopic characteristics were similar in the two groups. Their mean age was 21-22 years (41% of those on placebo and 35% of those on budesonide were younger than age 18 years) and 69% were male; most patients had edema, all had dysphagia, and 39%-41% had heartburn. Patients were excluded if they had esophageal stricture on screening endoscopy that did not allow passage of a standard adult diagnostic endoscope.
Patients were randomized to treatment with budesonide suspension, at a dose of 2 mg twice a day (51 patients) or a placebo suspension (42 patients). The primary outcomes were a change in the DSQ score from baseline, and the proportion of patients with a histologic response, defined as at least 6 eosinophils per high-power field (eos/hpf) from all biopsies. The final analysis included 87 patients.
At baseline, the mean peak eosinophil counts were 156/hpf among those on budesonide and 130/hpf among those on placebo; after treatment, the mean peak counts dropped to 39/hpf among those on budesonide (a 65% reduction) and to 113/hpf among those on placebo (a 10% reduction), a statistically significant difference (P < .05), said Dr. Dellon, also with the department of medicine at UNC.
From a mean of about 29 in both groups at baseline, DSQ scores dropped by a mean of 14.3 among the treated patients, vs. 7.5 among those on placebo, which was a statistically significant difference (P = .0096). The other primary endpoint, the histologic response rate, was 39% among treated patients, vs. 3% among those on placebo, also a significant difference (P < .0001).
Adverse events were not different between the two groups, and growth velocity among those under age 18 years and cortisol levels were not different between the two groups, he added. There was one case of esophageal candidiasis in a patient on budesonide.
During his presentation, Dr. Hirano said that there were also significant improvements in EREFS scores from baseline in the proximal and distal esophagus among those treated with budesonide, but not among those on placebo. Based on EREFS scores, oral budesonide “resulted in significant improvement in endoscopic features of edema, exudate, rings, [and] furrows, compared to placebo,” but there was no significant change in strictures, another component of the EREFS, in either the treatment or placebo groups. However, patients with high-grade strictures were not enrolled in the study, he added.