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Deflazacort in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a comparison of two different protocols

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Biggar, W. D.; Politano, L.; Harris, V. A.; Passamano, L.; Vajsar, J.; Alman, B.; Palladino, A.; Comi, L. I.; Nigro, G.

We compare the long-term benefits and side effects of deflazacort using two treatment protocols from Naples (N) and Toronto (T). Boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy between the ages of 8 and 15 years and who had four or more years of deflazacort treatment were reviewed. Diagnostic criteria included males with proximal muscle weakness evident before 5 years, increased serum creatine kinase and genetic testing and/or a muscle biopsy consistent with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Thirty-seven boys were treated with protocol-N using deflazacort at a dose of 0.6 mg/kg per day for the first 20 days of the month and no deflazacort for the remainder of the month. Boys with osteoporosis received daily vitamin D and calcium. Deflazacort treatment started between 4 and 8 years of age. Thirty-two were treated with protocol-T using deflazacort at a dose of 0.9 mg/kg per day, plus daily vitamin D and calcium. Treatment started between 6 and 8 years of age. All boys were monitored every 4-6 months. The results were compared with age-matched controls in the two groups (19 for protocol-N and 30 for protocol-T). For the boys treated with protocol-N, 97% were ambulatory at 9 years (control, 22%), 35% at 12 years (control, 0%), 25% at 15 years (control, 0%). For the 32 boys treated with protocol-T, 100% were ambulatory at 9 years (control, 48%), 83% at 12 years (control, 0%) and 77% at 15 years (control, 0%). No aids or leg braces were used for ambulation. In boys 13 years and older, a scoliosis of >20 degrees developed in 30% of the boys on protocol-N, 16% on protocol-T and 90% of controls. For protocol-N, no cataracts were observed while in protocol-T, 30% of boys had asymptomatic cataracts that required no treatment. Fractures occurred in 19% (control 16%) of boys on protocol-N and 16% (control, 20%) of boys on protocol-T. This report illustrates: (a) the importance of collaborative studies in developing treatment protocols in Duchenne muscular dystrophy and (b) the long-term beneficial effects of deflazacort treatment in both protocols. However, the protocol-T seems to be more effective and frequently is associated with asymptomatic cataracts.

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