From the Journals

Pancreatic enzyme replacement flunked randomized trial



Pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy (PERT) did not significantly alter body weight after pancreatoduodenectomy in the intention-to-treat analysis of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.

After 3 months of treatment, the PERT group lost an average of 0.68 kg, and the placebo group lost an average of 1.19 kg (P = .302). Low adherence might explain this missed primary endpoint – the 31% of patients who did not adhere to PERT were about four times more likely to lose weight, compared with patients who adhered to PERT (hazard ratio, 4.1, 95% confidence interval, 2.1-7.6), even after possible confounders were controlled for.

In the per-protocol analysis, PERT was associated with an average gain of 1.09 kg in body weight, whereas placebo was associated with an average loss of 2.28 kg (P < .001 for difference between groups). Therefore, clinicians should consider “active education and monitoring” to increase adherence to PERT among patients with pancreatic enzyme insufficiency after pancreatoduodenectomy, wrote Hongbeom Kim of Seoul (South Korea) National University College of Medicine. The findings were published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Nutritional deficiencies, steatorrhea, bowel issues, and flatulence undermine health and quality of life among these patients, the researchers noted. Although guidelines recommend PERT, doses and indications are not standardized because of insufficient data. To date, most studies have focused on PERT for patients with pancreatic enzyme insufficiency attributable to chronic pancreatitis, not surgery.

This double-blind trial enrolled 304 patients who underwent pancreatoduodenectomy for benign or malignant indications at seven tertiary referral hospitals in South Korea. All patients had a preoperative or postoperative fecal elastase level of 200 mg/g or less. They were randomly assigned to receive thrice-daily capsules with meals consisting of PERT (40,000 FIP lipase, 25,000 FIP amylase, and 1,500 FIP protease) or placebo.

To assess adherence, patients filled out medication diaries and the investigators counted the number of capsules left at 3-month follow-up. “Patients who took more than two-thirds of the total [PERT or placebo] dose without taking other digestive enzymes were considered to have completed the protocol,” the researchers wrote.

In all, 67 patients were excluded from the intention-to-treat analysis because they withdrew consent or were lost to follow-up. Among the remaining 237 patients, PERT did not significantly outperform placebo for the primary endpoint of body weight or for secondary endpoints, including nutritional status and quality of life. The study was powered to assess the intention-to-treat population and hence missed its primary endpoint.

The per-protocol analysis included 71 patients who adhered to PERT and 93 who adhered to placebo. Among these patients, adherence to PERT versus placebo was associated with a 3.37-kg absolute mean increase in body weight (P < .001). [The use] of PERT [also significantly] increased prealbumin and transferrin levels, reflecting short-term nutritional status,” the researchers wrote. “However, no difference in quality of life was observed.”

Subgroup analyses also favored PERT in the per-protocol analysis but not the intention-to-treat analysis, the researchers said. The use of PERT did not significantly affect the frequency of defecation in either the intention-to-treat or the per-protocol analysis.

Korea Pharmbio and the Ministry of Science and ICT provided funding. The researchers reported having no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Kim H et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Sep 12. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2019.08.061.

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