Clinical Trials for LDN
Updated: March 27, 2018
Around the globe, there has been a quantum leap forward in the number of ongoing research studies on LDN. Here is a capsule look at a number of such projects.
Developments that are detailed below:
Recently Published Clinical Trials of LDN
[Note: all boldfacing, below, was so chosen by the editor.]
> LDN for Induction of Remission in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients — Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam
Background. Around 30% of patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are refractory to current IBD drugs or relapse over time. Novel treatments are called for, and low dose Naltrexone (LDN) may provide a safe, easily accessible alternative treatment option for these patients. We investigated the potential of LDN to induce clinical response in therapy refractory IBD patients, and investigated its direct effects on epithelial barrier function.
Journal of Translational Medicine
> LDN for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia—Stanford Medical Center
Background. A single-blind, small clinical trial of LDN for the treatment of fibromyalgia was begun at Stanford Medical Center in June 2007; principal Investigator Sean Mackey and sub-investigator Jarred Younger. The results were published as “Fibromyalgia Symptoms are Reduced by Low-Dose Naltrexone: a Pilot Study” in Pain Med. 2009 May-Jun;10(4):663-72. Younger reported:
The LDN trial on 10 individuals gave us encouraging results. The findings warranted a larger, double-blind trial [involving] individuals with fibromyalgia.
Stanford researchers have further extended their study of LDN for the pain of fibromyalgia.
> LDN for Children With Moderate/Severe Crohn’s Disease—Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA
Background. Dr. Jill P. Smith continues to demonstrate LDN’s efficacy in treating this inflammatory bowel disease in all of the many ages affected.
> Studies in Mali on LDN for HIV and AIDS
Background. Planning for this work dates back to 2003. With neurologist Dr. Jaquelyn McCandless and her colleague husband, Jack Zimmerman, as both “Expatriate Clinical Monitors” and major financial supporters, the support of Hussein Alfa Nafo, and with a local research team led by Dr. Abdel Kader Traore and other health officials at the University Hospital in Bamako, Mali in Africa, two separate studies of LDN use in HIV/AIDS have now been completed and published in a peer reviewed journal, the Journal of AIDS and HIV Research.
The studies were approved for only a 3mg LDN dosage (rather than an anticipated 4.5mg). In addition, careful attention was given to special counseling aimed at improving preventive health practices of local women and children. Skip’s Pharmacy of Boca Raton, Florida prepared the LDN and placebo capsules.
Summary. With the first study, the researchers found that LDN is both safe and free of side effects and that it appears to be efficacious in strengthening the immune system of HIV+ individuals. In this study’s patients, who all had HIV infection but whose CD4 levels were not yet low enough to warrant antiretroviral (ARV) drug therapy, the mean CD4 % count remained unchanged throughout the study. This is in contrast to the usual outcomes in all other similar groups in the past, who were untreated, whose CD4% continued to decline month after month inexorably. The researchers concluded that for HIV+ individuals “LDN might offer a simple, relatively safe, inexpensive and easily monitored treatment alternative.”
The second study, a randomized clinical trial of patients with markedly reduced CD4 levels, compared those who were given both ARV and LDN to a control group given ARV and placebo. It was found that the ARV+LDN group showed a significantly higher increase in CD4 count by 6 months of treatment and it was concluded that “further exploration of LDN as part of an HIV+ treatment regimen is warranted.”
[Editor’s Note: These long awaited scientific studies on Low Dose Naltrexone for HIV+ individuals not only have helped bring the late Dr. Bihari’s dream of a Developing Nations Project much closer to realization but also have clearly demonstrated LDN’s unique ability to strengthen the immune system. If responsible health care authorities around the globe pay proper attention to these findings, it is still possible to prevent the further deterioration of tens of millions of people who are presently HIV+.]
> LDN for Crohn’s Disease—Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA
Background. Dr. Jill P. Smith’s original article, "Low-Dose Naltrexone Therapy Improves Active Crohn’s Disease," was published in the Jan 11, 2007 online edition of the American Journal of Gastroenterology (2007;102:1–9) [print edition Apr '07]. This was the first clinical study of LDN published by a US medical journal. Dr. Smith, Professor of Gastroenterology at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine, found that two-thirds of the patients in her pilot study went into remission and fully 89% of the group responded to LDN treatment to some degree. She concluded that “LDN therapy appears effective and safe in subjects with active Crohn’s disease.” That open-label Penn State trial demonstrated the efficacy of LDN in a small group of patients. As a result, Dr. Smith received an NIH grant that permitted the more definitive Phase II placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Phase II. Dr. Smith and her colleagues have now published the results of their Phase II study of 40 adults with Crohn’s disease, “Therapy with the Opioid Antagonist Naltrexone Promotes Mucosal Healing in Active Crohn’s Disease: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial”, in the online journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences, March 8, 2011.
The 4.5mg daily dose of naltrexone proved to have very positive results, with significant improvements in the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index scores and with substantial healing demonstrated by endoscopy.
> LDN for MS—University of California, San Francisco
Bruce Cree, MD and co-researchers at the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UCSF published their study “Pilot Trial 0f Low Dose Naltrexone and Quality of Life in MS” in the online Annals of Neurology on 19 Feb 2010.
The study began in early 2007. Some 80 patients with MS were involved in this double-blind, “randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover-design study of the effects of low dose naltrexone on quality of life as measured by the multiple sclerosis quality of life inventory.” Each subject received either LDN or a placebo for 8 weeks, followed by one week without either, and then a further 8 weeks on the the alternate capsule. A substantial contribution toward the study was made by the voluntary LDN for MS Research Fund.
The results were published in February 2010 in the Annals of Neurology (full pre-publication text available here):
Pilot trial of low dose naltrexone and quality of life in MS
> LDN for MS—Milan, Italy
A long-awaited pilot study of low dose naltrexone therapy in multiple sclerosis was run by the Milan neurological researcher, Dr. Maira Gironi and colleagues. Several northern Italian hospitals began enrolling patients for the study during the first week of December 2006. Dr. Gironi reports that the 6 months of LDN treatment was completed in August 2007. Importantly, Dr. Gironi’s research team in Milan has long been a locus for significant research on endorphins in relation to illness, and this study has been tracking accurate assessments of the patients’ beta-endorphin levels in response to their LDN treatment.
The subjects were 40 patients affected with Primary Progressive MS. PPMS is an uncommon form of multiple sclerosis that progresses inexorably and for which neurologists have never had an approved treatment to offer.
Results were published in September 2008:
Multiple Sclerosis. 2008 Sep;14(8):1076-83.
[Editor’s Note: That only one patient showed any progression of PPMS during the six-month period of this trial is extraordinary, as is the occurrence of a statistically significant reduction in spasticity. Two major adverse events were reported but were unassociated with MS or with LDN: one patient had previously unrecognized polycystic kidney disease and the other was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer.]
Clinical Trials in Progress or Awaiting Publication
> Trial of LDN for Glioma Now Recruiting Participants—Duke University
This study began in May 2011 and has an estimated primary completion date in March 2013. Katherine B Peters, MD, PhD, a neuro-oncologist at Duke University, is the principal investigator. This placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial will involve 72 patients, all of whom have high-grade malignant glioma. They will receive, in addition to standard chemoradiation, either placebo or LDN. The primary outcome will determine the effects of LDN on quality of life measures; however, also measured will be differences in both functional capacity and in neurocognitive function. The study is funded with a $50,000 grant from the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas. For further information, please contact Sarah Woodring at 919-684-2527. Further details about the trial can be found here.
> LDN for MS—Akron, Ohio
In May 2007, the MindBrain Consortium and the Department of Psychiatry of Summa Hospital System of Akron, Ohio, along with the nearby Oak Clinic for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis, announced a new scientific study of the effects of treating MS with low dose naltrexone. Psychologist David Pincus and his colleagues coordinated the study. It was a 16 week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover-design analysis of 36 patients with either progressive or relapsing-remitting MS. The study examined symptom severity as well as any changes in quality of life, sleep patterns, and affective states.
In early October 2007, Dr. Pincus wrote as follows:
We have enrolled more than 20 of the 36 people intended; we expect to be fully recruited within the next 3 or 4 weeks, and, three months following the end of enrollment we will have all the data. The study is going well, a couple of people have dropped out or been removed for one reason or another, but none because of a problem with sleep. One patient had sleeping issues for a few nights, but then has been ok. We are looking at the psychoactive properties of LDN as well as assessing improvement of MS symptoms, and hope to find some changes in perception of energy level that correlate with personality type and amount of dreaming reported.One year later, Dr. Pincus reported problematic outcomes in his study, with little apparent differences between the placebo and treatment groups. After lengthy consideration with his colleagues, he wrote as follows:
We did not exclude patients on existing immunosuppressants....The existing immunosuppressants may have inhibited the LDN effects in this population.
Animal Trials of LDN
> Research on Neurodegeneration at NIEHS Suggests a Protective Naltrexone Role
J.S. Hong, Ph.D., head of the Neuropharmacology Section of the Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, finds that "morphinan" drugs, including naltrexone and naloxone, are able to reduce inflammatory reactions in microglia brain cells in animal studies. Such inflammation is believed to be central to the progressive neurodegenerative effects seen in disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Hong’s report, summarizing the role of microglia in inflammation-related neurodegeneration and the potential of therapy using morphinans, appears in a January 2007 issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience [8(1):57-69].
> Research at Penn State: LDN for an Animal Model of MS
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society “awarded a small Pilot Award to Ian Zagon [Ph.D.] at Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, PA for the term of 09/01/2006 through 08/31/2007 in the amount of $44,000. The title of his project is ‘Role of opioid peptides and receptors in MS.’ This study [treated] an animal model of MS daily with either a high dose of naltrexone or a low dose of naltrexone to determine whether naltrexone influences disease course.”
Zagon described the project as follows:
This research project raises the question of whether endogenous opioids and opioid receptors influence the course of MS. This is a novel and innovative concept that is valuable to explore. To test this hypothesis, we will subject [rodents] to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a model that mimics MS. Animals will be treated daily with a high dose of [naltrexone] (HDN) or a low dose of [naltrexone] (LDN)....Our expectations are that continuous opioid receptor blockade will exacerbate the progression of MS, whereas a low dose of naltrexone will retard the course of this disease. Evidence for the involvement of endogenous opioids and opioid receptors in MS will open a new field of research related to the pathogenesis of this disease, and contribute to the development of strategies for treatment.
Dr. Zagon’s expectations were met, as is clear in the titles of the two poster presentations (below), which he gave to the World Congress on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, held in September 2008 in Montreal, Canada. The actual data still awaited journal publication at that date:
Poster 190—Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) prevents development or delays onset and reduces severity of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in mice. K. Rahn, P. McLaughlin (Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA), R. Bonneau, A. Turel, G. Thomas, I. Zagon.
Past Completed Clinical Trials of Low Dose Naltrexone
> Penn State Trial for Crohn's Disease
Endoscopic Improvement in Crohn’s Colitis with Naltrexone
The report on this groundbreaking research—"Low-Dose Naltrexone as a Treatment For Active Crohn's Disease"—was presented on May 23, 2006 at Digestive Diseases Week, a prestigious gastrointestinal conference, by Professor Jill Smith of the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Dr. Smith's research paper, "Low-Dose Naltrexone Therapy Improves Active Crohn’s Disease," has been published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology in its January 11, 2007 edition.
Dr. Smith and her colleagues concluded that "LDN therapy offers an alternative safe, effective, and economic means of treating subjects with active Crohn's disease."
According to the news from Penn State, the National Institutes of Health has already granted $500,000 for Dr. Smith's group to continue the study. This funding should help assure a full-fledged placebo-controlled scientific trial of LDN in Crohn's disease. (Notably, Dr. Smith and her research teams are also involved in exploring the direct effects of using a form of endorphin by infusion in order to treat pancreatic and colon cancer.)
Below are some extracts from the trial summary that was published online by the gastroenterology conference:
Low-Dose Naltrexone as a Treatment For Active Crohn's Disease
J. P. Smith1; H. E. Stock1; S. I. Bingaman1; D. T. Mauger2; I. S. Zagon3
Results: Seventeen patients with a mean initial CDAI* score of 356 ± 27 were enrolled in the study. CDAI scores decreased significantly (p<0.01) with LDN, and remained statistically lower than baseline 4-weeks after completing therapy (see Figure).
Eighty-nine percent of patients exhibited a response to therapy (>70-point decrease in CDAI, p<0.001) and 67% achieved remission (CDAI score <150). QOL* surveys indicated marked improvement with LDN. No laboratory abnormalities were noted. One subject undergoing routine endoscopic procedures showed healing of the intestinal mucosa. In both subjects with open fistulas, closure was noted with LDN. The most common side effect of LDN was sleep disturbances (7 patients).
Conclusions: LDN therapy offers an alternative safe, effective, and economic means of treating subjects with active Crohn's disease.
*[Editor's Note: CDAI = Crohn's Disease Activity Index; QOL = Quality of Life]
> Pain Therapeutics Ends Irritable Bowel Syndrome Trials of Ultra-low Naltrexone Dosage
In December 2005, Pain Therapeutics, Inc. announced results of its Phase III study with PTI-901. [Editor's Note: PTI-901 contains only 0.5mg of naltrexone, which is well below the therapeutic dosage range for LDN—normally from 1.75mg to 4.5mg every night. LDN in the normal dosage range has been anecdotally reported quite beneficial in halting IBS.] Excerpt from PTI's announcement:
This randomized, double-blinded, multi-center U.S. study compared a daily dose of PTI-901 against placebo in 600 women with documented IBS over a three-month treatment period. PTI-901 showed a favorable safety profile and patients reported statistically meaningful relief of IBS symptoms in the second month of treatment (p<0.02), but the drug did not demonstrate a meaningful benefit in the third month of treatment, which was defined as the primary endpoint. According to current regulatory standards, an experimental drug for chronic IBS needs to show efficacy at the end of a three-month treatment period.
The Company believes this study was well designed to detect any durable benefits of PTI-901 versus placebo in a large patient population with IBS. Based on the adequacy of the study itself, coupled with today's clinical results, the Company is discontinuing all further clinical development activities with PTI-901.
> Dr. Evers Trial in Germany for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Conducted in the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic of Dr. Evers Hospital in Sundern, Germany, the starting date was October 15, 2004. It is described as a short-term scientific, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving patients with either secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) or primary-progressive MS (PPMS).
[Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, because of some early complaints of sleep disturbance, the principal investigator of this trial switched all of the study group to taking LDN at 9am in the morning, a questionable dosage time. It is generally recognized that the most effective time to take LDN is at bedtime, between 9pm and 3am, due to the fact that the endorphins for each day are always produced at their peak rate in the pre-dawn hours. A 9am dosage time, as was used in this trial, might conceivably suppress—rather than boost—a patient's immune system.]
The purpose of the study was to investigate what MS-associated symptoms are positively influenced by LDN (low dose naltrexone, 3 mg per day). The principal investigator, Dr. Mir, reported his findings at the First Annual LDN Conference in 2005, as well as on his website.