An elevated level of serum uric acid (SUA) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Pharmacological intervention with urate-lowering agents, such as the conventional purine analogue xanthine oxidase (XO) inhibitor, allopurinol, has been used widely for a long period of time in clinical practice to reduce SUA levels.
Febuxostat, a novel non-purine selective inhibitor of XO, has higher potency for inhibition of XO activity and greater urate-lowering efficacy than conventional allopurinol. However, clinical evidence regarding the effects of febuxostat on atherosclerosis is lacking.
The purpose of the study was to test whether treatment with febuxostat delays carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) progression in patients with asymptomatic hyperuricemia.
Methods and findings
The study was a multicenter, prospective, randomized, open-label, blinded-endpoint clinical trial undertaken at 48 sites throughout Japan between May 2014 and August 2018. Adults with both asymptomatic hyperuricemia (SUA >7.0 mg/dL) and maximum IMT of the common carotid artery (CCA) ≥1.1 mm at screening were allocated equally using a central web system to receive either dose-titrated febuxostat (10–60 mg daily) or as a control-arm, non-pharmacological lifestyle modification for hyperuricemia, such as a healthy diet and exercise therapy.
Of the 514 enrolled participants, 31 were excluded from the analysis, with the remaining 483 people (mean age 69.1 years [standard deviation 10.4 years], female 19.7%) included in the primary analysis (febuxostat group, 239; control group, 244), based on a modified intention-to-treat principal.
The carotid IMT images were recorded by a single sonographer at each site and read in a treatment-blinded manner by a single analyzer at a central core laboratory. The primary endpoint was the percentage change from baseline to 24 months in mean IMT of the CCA, determined by analysis of covariance using the allocation adjustment factors (age, gender, history of type 2 diabetes, baseline SUA, and baseline maximum IMT of the CCA) as the covariates.
Key secondary endpoints included changes in other carotid ultrasonographic parameters and SUA and the incidence of clinical events. The mean values (± standard deviation) of CCA-IMT were 0.825 mm ± 0.173 mm in the febuxostat group and 0.832 mm ± 0.175 mm in the control group (mean between-group difference [febuxostat − control], −0.007 mm [95% confidence interval (CI) −0.039 mm to 0.024 mm; P = 0.65]) at baseline; 0.832 mm ± 0.182 mm in the febuxostat group and 0.848 mm ± 0.176 mm in the control group (mean between-group difference, −0.016 mm [95% CI −0.051 mm to 0.019 mm; P = 0.37]) at 24 months. Compared with the control group, febuxostat had no significant effect on the primary endpoint (mean percentage change 1.2% [95% CI −0.6% to 3.0%] in the febuxostat group (n = 207) versus 1.4% [95% CI −0.5% to 3.3%] in the control group (n = 193); mean between-group difference, −0.2% [95% CI −2.3% to 1.9%; P = 0.83]).
Febuxostat also had no effect on the other carotid ultrasonographic parameters. The mean baseline values of SUA were comparable between the two groups (febuxostat, 7.76 mg/dL ± 0.98 mg/dL versus control, 7.73 mg/dL ± 1.04 mg/dL; mean between-group difference, 0.03 mg/dL [95% CI −0.15 mg/dL to 0.21 mg/dL; P = 0.75]). The mean value of SUA at 24 months was significantly lower in the febuxostat group than in the control group (febuxostat, 4.66 mg/dL ± 1.27 mg/dL versus control, 7.28 mg/dL ± 1.27 mg/dL; mean between-group difference, −2.62 mg/dL [95% CI −2.86 mg/dL to −2.38 mg/dL; P Conclusions
In Japanese patients with asymptomatic hyperuricemia, 24 months of febuxostat treatment did not delay carotid atherosclerosis progression, compared with non-pharmacological care. These findings do not support the use of febuxostat for delaying carotid atherosclerosis in this population.
University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trial Registry UMIN000012911.