Author + information
- Received February 21, 2006
- Revision received May 30, 2006
- Accepted June 13, 2006
- Published online October 17, 2006.
- Robert Voswinckel, MD⁎,
- Beate Enke, MD⁎,
- Frank Reichenberger, MD⁎,
- Markus Kohstall, MD⁎,
- Andree Kreckel, MD⁎,
- Stefanie Krick, MD⁎,
- Henning Gall, MD⁎,
- Tobias Gessler, MD, PhD⁎,1,
- Thomas Schmehl, PhD⁎,1,
- Hossein A. Ghofrani, MD⁎,2,
- Ralph Theo Schermuly, PhD⁎,
- Friedrich Grimminger, MD, PhD⁎,3,
- Lewis J. Rubin, MD†,4,
- Werner Seeger, MD⁎,5 and
- Horst Olschewski, MD⁎,‡,6,⁎ ()
- ↵⁎Reprint requests and correspondence:
Dr. Horst Olschewski, Division of Pulmonology, Auenbruggerplatz 20, A-8036 Graz, Austria.
Objectives This study sought to investigate the effects of inhaled treprostinil on pulmonary hemodynamics and gas exchange in severe pulmonary hypertension.
Background Inhaled iloprost therapy has a proven clinical efficacy in pulmonary arterial hypertension, but this therapy necessitates 6 to 9 inhalation sessions per day. Treprostinil has a longer plasma half-life and might provide favorable properties when applied by inhalation.
Methods Three different studies were conducted on a total of 123 patients by means of right heart catheterization: 1) a randomized crossover-design study (44 patients), 2) a dose escalation study (31 patients), and 3) a study of reduction of inhalation time while keeping the dose fixed (48 patients). The primary end point was the change in pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR).
Results The mean pulmonary arterial pressure of the enrolled patients was approximately 50 mm Hg in all studies. In study 1, both treprostinil and iloprost at an inhaled dose of 7.5 μg displayed a comparable PVR decrease, with a significantly different time course (p < 0.001), treprostinil showing a more sustained effect on PVR (p < 0.0001) and fewer systemic side effects. In study 2, effects of inhalation were observed for 3 h. A near-maximal acute PVR decrease was observed at 30 μg treprostinil. In study 3, treprostinil was inhaled at increasing concentrations with a pulsed ultrasonic nebulizer, mimicking a metered dose inhaler. A dose of 15 μg treprostinil was inhaled with 18, 9, 3, 2 pulses, or 1 pulse, each mode achieving comparable, sustained pulmonary vasodilation without significant side effects.
Conclusions Inhaled treprostinil exerts sustained pulmonary vasodilation with excellent tolerability at relatively low doses and may be inhaled in a few breaths.
New therapies for pulmonary arterial hypertension have shown clinical efficacy, but there remains a need for further improvement (1). Continuous intravenous infusion of epoprostenol improves hemodynamics, quality of life, and survival. The stable prostacyclin analog treprostinil might have comparable clinical effects (2–4), but intravenous therapy is prone to catheter-related infections, drug tolerance, and major systemic side effects. The inhalation of iloprost is clinically efficacious in patients with severe pulmonary arterial hypertension (5) and was recently approved for use in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. However, 6 to 9 iloprost inhalation sessions daily with 6- to 12-min inhalation times are recommended, consuming considerable time every day.
The stable prostacyclin analog treprostinil has been approved in the U.S., Israel, Australia, and Canada for treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (New York Heart Association functional class II to IV) and by the European Medical Agency for idiopathic PAH (New York Heart Association functional class III) via continuous subcutaneous infusion (6) and continuous intravenous infusion (4). Subcutaneous application circumvents septic events caused by catheter infections related to intravenous infusion; however, local pain and tissue reaction at the infusion site may limit effective dosing and long-term treatment. Treprostinil possesses a longer plasma half-life than iloprost (7) and may show alternative tissue binding characteristics that could result in favorable pharmacodynamic features when delivered via the inhaled route. A recent case report suggests that inhaled treprostinil might be tolerable and efficacious in the long term (8).
We asked whether inhaled treprostinil had acute pulmonary vasodilative properties and whether it might be superior to inhaled iloprost in terms of duration of effect and systemic side effects. We then increased both the total inhaled dose to define a threshold for systemic side effects, and the drug concentration to reduce the inhalation time.
Methods and patients
All studies were approved by the institutional ethics committee of the University of Giessen, and written informed consent was obtained from all 123 enrolled patients. All inhalations were performed with the Optineb ultrasonic nebulizer (Nebutec, Elsenfeld, Germany).
Study 1 was a randomized, open-label, single-blind crossover study. The primary objective was to compare the acute hemodynamic effects and the systemic side effects of inhaled treprostinil with inhaled iloprost at comparable doses. A total number of 44 patients with moderate to severe precapillary pulmonary hypertension were enrolled. Patient characteristics and hemodynamic as well as gas exchange parameters are outlined in Table 1.
Each patient underwent right heart catheterization and inhaled both iloprost and treprostinil on the same day during hemodynamic monitoring. The drugs were administered consecutively with a 1-h interval between the drug administrations. One-half of the study patients initially inhaled treprostinil and then inhaled iloprost (n = 22), and the other half initially inhaled iloprost and then inhaled treprostinil (n = 22). Patients were randomized to 1 of the 2 groups and blinded regarding the sequence of the study drugs. Drug effects were monitored for 60 min after each inhalation session. Iloprost was inhaled at a concentration of 4 μg/ml (6 min inhalation time; n = 44) and treprostinil was inhaled at concentrations of 4 μg/ml (6 min inhalation; n = 14), 8 μg/ml (6 min inhalation; n = 14) or 16 μg/ml (3 min inhalation; n = 16). Based on previous biophysical characterization of the ultrasonic device with iloprost and treprostinil solution, this corresponds to total inhaled doses of 7.5 μg iloprost and treprostinil (4 μg/ml) and 15 μg treprostinil (8 μg/ml and 16 μg/ml), respectively.
Study 2 was a randomized, open-label, single-blind, placebo-controlled study. The primary objectives were to describe the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic effects of inhaled treprostinil at a well-tolerated dose (30 μg) and to explore the highest tolerated single dose. A total number of 31 patients inhaled either placebo or treprostinil; each patient underwent 1 inhalation session. The first 16 patients were randomized to 30 μg treprostinil (16 μg/ml, n = 8) or placebo (stock solution containing the same buffer and preservative concentrations as treprostinil 16 μg/ml). Subsequent patients received 60 μg treprostinil (32 μg/ml; n = 6), 90 μg treprostinil (48 μg/ml; n = 6) and 120 μg treprostinil (64 μg/ml; n = 3). Inhalation time was 6 min for all groups. Hemodynamics, gas exchange, and arterial treprostinil concentrations were recorded for 180 min.
Study 3 was a randomized, open-label, single-blind study. The primary objective was to explore the shortest possible inhalation time for a 15-μg dose of inhaled treprostinil. A total of 48 patients inhaled 1 dose of treprostinil during hemodynamic monitoring. The drug was applied in 18, 9, 3, 2 or 1 breaths. The aerosol was generated by a pulsed ultrasonic nebulizer (Ventaneb; Nebutec, Elsenfeld, Germany) in cycles consisting of 2-s aerosol production (pulse) and a 4-s pause. The device included an optic-acoustical trigger enabling the patient to synchronize the inspiration to the end of the aerosol pulse, thereby providing exact dosage. The treprostinil dose of 15 μg was either generated during 18 cycles (Optineb filled with 100 μg/ml treprostinil, n = 6), 9 cycles (200 μg/ml treprostinil, n = 6), 3 cycles (600 μg/ml treprostinil, n = 21), 2 cycles (1,000 μg/ml treprostinil, n = 7), or 1 cycle (2,000 μg/ml treprostinil, n = 8). Hemodynamics and gas exchange were recorded for 120 to 180 min.
Treprostinil plasma concentrations were assessed in study 2 at 10, 15, 30, 60, and 120 min after inhalation. Treprostinil quantification was performed by Alta Analytical Laboratory (El Dorado Hills, California) with a validated liquid chromatography atmospheric-pressure ionization tandem mass spectrometry as previously described (9). Mixed venous blood was drawn at 10, 15, 30, 60, 120, and 240 min after inhalation, centrifuged, and the plasma frozen at −80°C until temperature-controlled shipping on dry ice.
For statistical analysis of study 1, the repeated pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) measurements after inhaled iloprost and treprostinil were subjected to a 3-factorial analysis of variance (factors: time [A], drug [B], treprostinil concentration [C]) to avoid multiple testing. The time to maximum PVR decrease after inhalation of iloprost versus treprostinil was compared by paired ttest. The area under the curve (AUC) was calculated from the start of inhalation until 60 min after inhalation. Means, standard error of the mean, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated. For studies 2 and 3, areas between curves (ABC) were calculated between placebo inhalation (study 2) and the respective treprostinil inhalation until 180 min (study 2) and 120 min (study 3) after the end of inhalation.
The inhalation of both iloprost and treprostinil in study 1 resulted in a rapid decrease in PVR and pulmonary arterial pressure (PAP) (Figs. 1 to 3).⇓⇓⇓No significant differences were observed for the AUC of PVR decrease after inhalation of 7.5 μg treprostinil in 6 min (AUC −12.6 ± 7.0%), 15 μg treprostinil in 6 min (AUC −13.3 ± 3.2%), and 15 μg treprostinil in 3 min (AUC −13.6 ± 4.3%). The AUC for PVR after the inhalation of 7.5 μg iloprost in 6 min was −7.7 ± 3.7% (mean ± 95% confidence interval). An overview of the pooled data of treprostinil inhalation compared with iloprost inhalation is given in Figure 3. The maximum effects of iloprost and treprostinil on PVR were comparable, but this effect was reached significantly later after treprostinil inhalation (18 ± 2 min) compared with iloprost (8 ± 1 min; mean ± SEM, p < 0.0001) and lasted considerably longer (after 60 min, PVR values in the treprostinil group had not yet returned to baseline). The increase in cardiac output was less brisk but more sustained after treprostinil inhalation. Systemic arterial pressure (SAP) was unaffected by treprostinil inhalation, whereas a transient decrease was observed after iloprost inhalation. Neither iloprost nor treprostinil affected gas exchange. Three-factorial analysis of variance for PVR showed a significant difference between repeated measurements after inhalation (p[A] < 0.0001), no significant difference between drugs (p[B] = 0.1), no difference between treprostinil concentrations (p[C] = 0.74), and a significant drug × time interaction (p[A × B] < 0.0001). This translates into a significant effect of both drugs on PVR with comparable drug potency, but a prolonged drug effect of treprostinil compared with iloprost.
In study 1, mild side effects were observed in some patients with iloprost inhalation at the 7.5-μg dose (transient flush, headache) but were not observed with inhaled treprostinil at 7.5 or 15 μg. Bad taste was reported by most of the patients after inhalation of treprostinil. This was subsequently found to be attributable to the metacresol preservative contained in the treprostinil solution, which was then left out in study 3.
In study 2, the pharmacodynamics of inhaled placebo or treprostinil were observed for 180 min. Placebo inhalation was followed by a gradual increase in PVR over the entire observation time. Because of reduced patient numbers in the 120-μg treprostinil group (because of side effects, see below), the hemodynamic values for this group were not included in the graphs of this study (Figs. 4 and 5).All treprostinil doses led to comparable maximal decreases of PVR to 76.5 ± 4.7% (30 μg), 73.7 ± 5.8% (60 μg), 73.3 ± 4.3% (90 μg), and 65.4 ± 4.1% (120 μg) of baseline values. An extended duration of pulmonary vasodilation was noted, surpassing the 3-h observation period for the 60-μg and 90-μg (and 120-μg) treprostinil doses, whereas in the 30-μg dose group the hemodynamic changes had returned to baseline by the end of this period. Even at the highest doses, treprostinil had only minor effects on SAP (Fig. 4). Maximal cardiac output was 106.8 ± 3.2% (30 μg), 122.9 ± 4.3% (60 μg), 114.3 ± 4.8% (90 μg) and 111.3 ± 3.9% (120 μg) of baseline values. The areas between the response curves after placebo versus treprostinil inhalation were calculated for PVR, PAP, systemic vascular resistance, and SAP (Fig. 5). A nearly maximal effect on PVR was already observed with 30 μg treprostinil, and areas between the curves for PVR were not significantly different for 30, 60, and 90 μg treprostinil. Effects on PAP and SAP were small and did not show a dose-response relationship. Gas exchange was not affected at doses up to 90 μg treprostinil, but arterial oxygen saturation was significantly decreased at a dose of 120 μg treprostinil in all 3 patients. Further dose increments above 120 μg were not performed because of this desaturation and a severe headache in 1 patient.
Bad taste of the treprostinil aerosol was again reported by most patients. Other side effects were flushing (n = 1; 30 μg), mild transient cough (n = 3; 60 μg), mild transient bronchoconstriction that resolved after fenoterol administration (n = 1; 30 μg), and moderate bronchoconstriction that resolved after fenoterol administration (n = 1; 120 μg). The bad taste, the bronchoconstriction, and the decrease in Sao2was attributed to metacresol contained in the original treprostinil solution. With the use of a metacresol-free solution of treprostinil (University Hospital Giessen, Germany; produced according to the manufacturer’s protocol) in the subsequent study, these side effects no longer occurred.
Study 3 was performed with metacresol-free treprostinil solution, which was tasteless and odorless. A total of 48 patients were enrolled. This study aimed at the reduction of inhalation time and aerosol volume needed for pulmonary drug delivery. A modified Optineb (Nebu-tec, Elsenfeld, Germany) inhalation device was programmed to produce a constant amount of aerosol during repeatable pulses of aerosol generation. With this device, treprostinil could be safely administered up to a concentration of 2,000 μg/ml without considerable side effects. There was no relationship between the number or type of side effects and treprostinil concentration. Reported side effects were mild and consisted of transient cough (n = 6), headache (n = 2), and jaw pain (n = 1).
The reduction of PVR and PAP was comparable among all groups (Fig. 6).Treprostinil inhalation reduced PVR to 76.3 ± 5.6% (18 pulses, 100 μg/ml), 72.9 ± 4.9% (9 pulses, 200 μg/ml), 71.2 ± 6.0% (3 pulses, 600 μg/ml), 77.4 ± 4.5% (2 pulses, 1,000 μg/ml) and 80.3 ± 5.2% (1 pulse, 2,000 μg/ml). The PAP was reduced to 84.2 ± 4.5% (18 pulses, 100 μg/ml), 84.2 ± 4.1% (9 pulses, 200 μg/ml), 81.1 ± 4.1% (3 pulses, 600 μg/ml), 86 ± 4% (2 pulses, 1,000 μg/ml), and 88 ± 5.4% (1 pulse, 2,000 μg/ml) of baseline. Cardiac output was moderately increased in all groups, whereas SAP was not significantly affected.
The ABCs for changes in hemodynamic and gas-exchange parameters after inhalation of 15 μg treprostinil versus placebo were calculated for an observation time of 120 min (Fig. 7).The ABCs for both PVR and PAP were comparable among all groups.
Pharmacokinetic results from study 2
Peak plasma concentrations of treprostinil were achieved 10 to 15 min after inhalation. Maximal treprostinil plasma concentrations (Cmax) for the 30-, 60-, 90-, and 120-μg doses were 0.65 ± 0.28 ng/ml (n = 4), 1.59 ± 0.17 ng/ml (n = 4), 1.74 ng/ml (n = 1), and 3.51 ± 1.04 ng/ml (n = 2), respectively (mean ± SEM; Fig. 8).
In these studies we asked whether: 1) the acute effects of inhaled treprostinil would be comparable to or superior to inhaled iloprost in pulmonary hypertensive patients, 2) the inhaled prostanoid dose might be increased without substantial local or systemic side effects, and 3) the time of inhalation, which is 6 to 12 min for iloprost, could be reduced significantly by increasing the concentration of treprostinil aerosol.
The patient population in these studies included people with different forms of precapillary pulmonary hypertension. All of these patients had a need for therapy of pulmonary hypertension, and this reflects the typical population of a pulmonary hypertension center. There were no major differences in patient characteristics or baseline hemodynamic values among the different groups (Table 1).
In study 1, we showed that the inhalation of treprostinil and iloprost in similar doses resulted in a comparable maximum pulmonary vasodilatory effect. However, marked differences in the response profile were noted. The onset of the pulmonary vasodilatory effect of inhaled treprostinil was slower but more sustained compared with that for iloprost, with the PVR decrease extending beyond the 1-h observation period. Although the average dose of treprostinil was higher than that of iloprost, no systemic effects were noted after treprostinil inhalation, whereas flush and transient SAP decrease, accompanied by a more prominent cardiac output increase, occurred after iloprost inhalation. These side effects were more prominent than in prior studies with inhaled iloprost, perhaps because the iloprost dose used in this study was 50% higher than the recommended single aerosolized dose (5 μg); additionally, it is possible that the preceding treprostinil inhalation may have added to the systemic side effects caused by the iloprost inhalation. Interestingly, there were no systemic side effects with treprostinil, although the average effect on PVR was comparable to that observed with iloprost.
This study used a crossover design to minimize the effects of interindividual differences in response to prostanoids. The short observation period of 1 h was used to avoid an uncomfortably long catheterization session. A limitation of this study is that the short observation interval may have resulted in a carryover of effects from the first to the second period, as suggested by Figure 1. However, we believe that this does not alter our conclusions that both drugs are potent pulmonary vasodilators and that the effects of treprostinil are more sustained compared with those of iloprost.
The longer duration of action and the virtual absence of side effects (except for the bitter taste of treprostinil aerosol, subsequently attributed to metacresol) encouraged us to increase the treprostinil dose in study 2 and to extend the observation time to 3 h to obtain precise pharmacodynamic data. Compared with placebo inhalation, inhaled treprostinil, in doses up to 90 μg, produced a strong pulmonary vasodilator effect that outlasted the observation time of 3 h. Although no pulmonary or systemic vasodilation was observed after placebo inhalation, there was a gradual increase in PVR and PAP accompanied by a decrease in cardiac output beyond 3 h after treprostinil inhalation. This finding is consistent with our previous experience from long-term catheterization studies, in which PVR tended to increase gradually after catheter insertion over the morning hours. This might be attributed to local effects of the catheter in the pulmonary artery, pain from the insertion site, or general discomfort from the investigation. In study 2, inhalation with metacresol-containing solution might have added to this effect, but this explanation seems very unlikely because of the gradual onset of the PVR increase.
The long duration of pulmonary vasodilation after a single inhalation of treprostinil may be partially explained by the stability of this prostanoid. We speculate that treprostinil is stored in the lung tissue after inhalation, providing a slow release from the alveolar lining layer or the interstitial compartment to the pulmonary vascular smooth muscle cells. Peak plasma concentrations of treprostinil were observed 10 to 15 min after inhalation (Fig. 8). This is considerably later compared to inhaled iloprost, with which peak plasma levels were found immediately after the completion of the inhalation session and plasma half-life was only about 8 min (10). This might explain the slower rate of onset of the pulmonary vasodilator effects and the virtual absence of systemic side effects despite the administration of higher doses of treprostinil. Similar to inhaled iloprost, the duration of the hemodynamic effect of treprostinil outlasted the plasma concentrations.
It is also possible that differences in binding characteristics to prostaglandin-E receptors and prostaglandin-I receptors contribute to the different pharmacodynamic profiles of inhaled treprostinil versus iloprost (11,12). Prostanoids and their analogs selectively bind to their 7 cognate prostanoid receptors, which initiate second messenger signaling that leads to either vasodilation or vasoconstriction, depending on the prostanoid receptor specificity of the analog and the receptor distribution in the respective vascular bed. Differences between treprostinil and iloprost in prostanoid receptor specificity and activation, together with tissue binding characteristics, may explain the improved pulmonary selectivity of inhaled treprostinil.
In study 3, the inhalation time was reduced to literally 1 single breath of 2,000 μg/ml treprostinil solution, thereby applying a dose of 15 μg. This drug administration with a single breath induced pulmonary vasodilation for longer than 3 h compared with placebo inhalation. Side effects were minor, of low frequency, and not related to drug concentration. It was an unanticipated and most encouraging finding that such high concentrations of treprostinil were well tolerated. However, training of the patients for effective administration of such powerful inhaled drugs by a single breath will be of great importance in future studies.
The pharmacokinetic studies (Fig. 8) showed that Cmax for the 60-μg (1.59-ng/ml) and 90-μg (1.74-ng/ml) doses were in accordance with previously reported plasma concentrations of subcutaneous or intravenous treprostinil delivery. It was shown previously that subcutaneous and intravenous administration of treprostinil at a rate of 15 ng/kg/min over 150 min in healthy volunteers led to a Cmax of 1.47 ± 0.2 ng/ml and 1.57 ± 0.31 ng/ml, respectively (13). Subcutaneous infusion over 28 days in healthy volunteers at a rate of 15 ng/kg/min led to a Cmax of 1.56 ± 0.24 ng/ml (9). Subcutaneous infusion rates of 10 to 20 ng/kg/min are clinically efficacious in pulmonary arterial hypertension patients (14). In the patient who reported severe headache after inhaling 120 μg treprostinil, a Cmax of 4.57 ng/ml was measured. This suggests that the systemic plasma concentration might determine the systemic side effect profile, while local lung tissue concentrations determine the pulmonary vasodilator effect.
We conclude that inhaled treprostinil exerts high pulmonary selectivity and leads to sustained pulmonary vasodilation. Concentration increases by more than 2 orders of magnitude (bringing down inhalation time to a single breath), and dose increases by more than 1 order of magnitude, were effective and well tolerated. These findings suggest that inhalation of treprostinil may offer a new strategy for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
The authors thank Melanie Thamm, Burcu Karadas, Peter Haredza, and Sebastian Klemm (Department of Internal Medicine, University of Giessen) for technical assistance and Wolfgang Pabst (Medical Informatics, University of Giessen) for statistical evaluation. We thank Carl Sterritt and Robert Roscigno (LungRX, Inc.) for proofreading.
↵1 Drs. Gessler and Schmehl are holders of a patent of the technology of the IloNeb ultrasonic nebulization device.
↵2 Dr. Ghofrani received grant and contract support from Pfizer Ltd., Altana Pharma AG, Schering AG, and served on the advisory board of Pfizer Ltd.
↵3 Dr. Grimminger received grant and contract support from Pfizer Ltd. and Altana Pharma AG.
↵4 Dr. Rubin received research grants from the NIH and industry-sponsored grants; served as a consultant for Actelion, United Therapeutics, Pfizer, Myogen, Schering, Nitrox, MondoBiotech, and CoTherix; and received stock options in United Therapeutics for service on the Scientific Advisory Board.
↵5 Dr. Seeger received grant and contract support from Schering, Altana Pharma, Myogen Inc. Westminster, LungRX, and Aventis Pharma.
↵6 Dr. Olschewski was a consultant and investigator for ScheringAG, LungRX, CoTherix, Encysive, and Myogen; received research grants from ScheringAG and LungRX; received treprostinil from Lung RX and inhalation devices from nebu-tec; and used iloprost, sildenafil, and treprostinil off-label for treatment of pulmonary hypertension.
This work was financially supported by Lung RX Inc., Satellite Beach, Florida. Dr. Bruce H. Brundage acted as the guest editor for this paper.
- Abbreviations and Acronyms
- pulmonary vascular resistance
- area under the curve
- areas between curves
- pulmonary arterial pressure
- systemic arterial pressure
- Received February 21, 2006.
- Revision received May 30, 2006.
- Accepted June 13, 2006.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation