A multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose- titration study of oral pilocarpine for treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia in head and neck cancer patients

F. G. LeVeque, M. Montgomery, D. Potter, M. B. Zimmer, J. W. Rieke, B. W. Steiger, S. C. Gallagher, C. C. Muscoplat

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239 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: To determine the efficacy and safety of pilocarpine hydrochloride for symptomatic relief of postradiation xerostomia symptoms and for saliva production in patients with head and neck cancer. Patients and Methods: One hundred sixty-two head and neck cancer patients who had received at least 40 Gy of radiation (117 patients had received > 60 Gy) with clinically significant xerostomia were enrolled onto a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical investigation. Patients received 2.5-mg tablets for the first 4 weeks, 5.0-mg tablets for the second 4 weeks, and 10.0-mg tablets for the last 4 weeks of the 12-week study. Patients were allowed to titrate pilocarpine or placebo for improvement in symptoms or to reduce side effects. Patients were evaluated for symptomatic relief by questionnaires and visual analog scales (VAS), and for saliva production by sialometry. Results: Pilocarpine produced a significant improvement (P = .035) in overall global assessments compared with placebo. There was a statistically significant (P = .020) decreased use of oral comfort agents such as artificial saliva, hard candy, and water. Values for symptomatic improvement in dryness approached significance (P = .057). There were statistically significant postdose improvements in whole and parotid salivary flow in pilocarpine treatment groups versus placebo. All pilocarpine dosages tested were judged to be safe. Adverse experiences were primarily sweating, rhinitis, headache, nausea, and urinary frequency, with the most common side effect being mild to moderate sweating. There were no serious drug-related adverse experiences in any of the pilocarpine treatment groups. Conclusion: It is concluded that pilocarpine produces clinically significant benefits for the symptomatic treatment of postradiation xerostomia. Best results were obtained with continuous treatment for 8 to 12 weeks with doses greater than 2.5 mg three times per day.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1124-1131
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Volume11
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993

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