The Experimental Treatment of Bulbar Dysfunction in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Study Purpose:

The purpose of this study is to determine whether Nuedexta is effective in the treatment of symptoms (impaired speech, swallowing, and saliva control)associated with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Study Status:

Not recruiting


Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

Study Type:


Type of Intervention:


Intervention Name:

Nuedexta, Matching Placebo



Phase 2

Study Chair(s)/Principal Investigator(s):

Richard A Smith, MD, Center for Neurologic Study (CNS), Jeremy Shefner, MD, PhD, Barrow Neurological Institute, Merit E Cudkowicz, MD, MSc, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) ID:


Neals Affiliated?


Coordinating Center Contact Information

Massachusetts General Hospital

165 Cambridge Street
Boston, Massachusetts, 02114 United States

Full Study Summary:

Muscle weakness, the cardinal feature of ALS, leads to progressive loss of motor function affecting the limbs, tongue, respiratory and pharyngeal muscles. Symptomatic treatments such as the placement of a feeding tube, can compensate for the inability to swallow. Riluzole, the only approved treatment for ALS, may slow disease progression but no treatment is curative and none have improved function.

Unexpectedly, Nuedexta®, approved for the treatment of labile emotionality that occurs in association with ALS and other neurological disorders, has been observed to improve bulbar function, primarily speech and swallowing, in a number of neurological disorders, including ALS. The basis for this is conjectural but likely due to a direct effect of the drug on motor neurons in the part of the brain that controls speech and swallowing. The same part of the brain appears to modulate the expression of emotions and interestingly the site of action of the drug is the same as a site that has been implicated in a juvenile form of ALS.

This is a multicenter, randomized double-blind, placebo controlled, cross over study evaluating the palliative effect of Nuedexta® on bulbar dysfunction. It is expected that approximately 60 ALS patients from 7 clinical centers in the US will be enrolled.

Study Sponsor:

Center for Neurologic Study, La Jolla, California,

Participant Duration:

Subjects will take study treatment for approximately 2 months. Subjects will have 5 in-person visits and 1 telephone visit during the study.

Estimated Enrollment:


Estimated Study Start Date:

03 / 31 / 2013

Estimated Study Completion Date:

03 / 01 / 2015

Posting Last Modified Date:

03 / 24 / 2017

Date Study Added to

03 / 07 / 2013

Minimum Age:

18 Years

Maximum Age:


Can participants use Riluzole?


Inclusion Criteria:

- ALS diagnosed as possible, laboratory-supported probable, probable, or definite as defined by revised El Escorial criteria

- Age 18 years or older

- Exhibits bulbar dysfunction manifested by dysarthria and/or dysphagia, according to PI judgment, exhibits a score of 55 or above on the CNS-Bulbar Function Scale

- Capable of providing informed consent and following trial procedures

- Geographic accessibility to the site

- Women must not be able to become pregnant for the duration of the study and must be willing to be on two contraceptive therapies

- Slow vital capacity (SVC) measure ≥50% of predicted for gender, height, and age at the screening visit

- Must be able to swallow capsules throughout the course of the study, according to PI judgment

- Subjects must not have taken riluzole for at least 30 days or be on a 50mg BID dose of riluzole for at least 30 days prior to randomization (subjects how have never taken riluzole are permitted in the study)

- Subjects taking anti-sialorrhea medication(s) must be on a stable dose for at least 30 days prior to randomization (anti-sialorrhea naïve subjects are permitted in the study)

- Must be able to safely swallow at least 30 milliliters (mLs) of water for the water swallowing test

Exclusion Criteria:

- Prior use of Nuedexta®

- Current use of dextromethorphan, quinidine, quinine, mefloquine or opioids

- History of quinidine, quinine, or mefloquine-induced thrombocytopenia, hepatitis, or other hypersensitivity reactions

- History of known sensitivity or intolerability to dextromethorphan

- Use of an mono amine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or within 14 days of stopping an MAOI

- Prolonged QT interval, congenital long QT syndrome, history suggestive of torsades de pointes, or heart failure

- Complete atrioventricular (AV) block without implanted pacemaker, or subjects at high risk of complete AV block

- Concomitant use with drugs that both prolong QT interval and are metabolized by cytochrome P 2D6 (CYP2D6) (i.e., thioridazine or pimozide)

- Exposure to any other experimental agent (off-label use or investigational) within 30 days prior to Baseline Visit

- Invasive ventilator dependence, such as tracheostomy

- Any history of either substance abuse within the past year, unstable psychiatric disease, cognitive impairment, or dementia, according to PI judgment

- Placement and/or usage of feeding tube

- Pregnant women or women currently breastfeeding

- Unable to turn diaphragm pacing device off during swallowing tests

- Salivatory Botox within 90 days (3 months) of screening

- Salivatory radiation within 180 days (6 months) of screening

California Pacific Medical Center

San Francisco, California 94115
United States

Georgetown University Medical Center

Washington D.C., District of Columbia 20007
United States

Saint Mary's Health Care

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
United States

Hennepin County Medical Center

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415
United States

Neurology Associates, P.C.

Lincoln, Nebraska 68506
United States

The Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland, Ohio 44195
United States

Providence ALS Center

Portland, Oregon 97213
United States