AASK: a cautionary tale for bardoxolone?

Robert Leversee had some questions regarding my presentation on diabetic nephropathy. You can see his concerns in the comments after the post. he was specifically concerned about this slide.

Robert felt it minimized the GFR gains found with bardoxolone. What is not clear from the deck is that 56 weeks, represents the GFR one month after stopping the drug. In the lecture, I pointed out that patients that were on bardoxolone all had a higher GFR than at baseline, while patients randomized to placebo had a lower GFR.

As a reminder, the primary end-point of the study was the change in GFR at 24 weeks and that was dramatic.

The reason I included the slide showing the 56 week data was my concern that bardoxolone may be pulling a creatinine slight of hand. My personal concern is that the changes in GFR are due to simple hemodynamic changes like were seen with amlodipine in AASK.

AASK was a trial of hypertension therapy in African Americans with a renal end-point rather than a cardiovascular end-point that are more common in hypertension trials. The trial is a two by three design with two blood pressure targets (MAP 102-107 vs <92) and three blood pressure medications (amlodipine, ramipril, metoprolol).

The data is difficult to interpret because the amlodipine caused an acute hemodynamic-related bump in the GFR, but after 12 months the loss of GFR in the amlodipine group was faster than with ramipril. The study designers designated co-primary end points, a total change in GFR and a chronic change in GFR that ignored the initial 3 months.

Ramipril was superior to amlodipine in the chronic phase but not in the total change in GFR. Though this ambiguity was not represented in the conclusions of the trial:

The fact that amlodipine improved renal function for one year makes me nervous about the one year duration of the bardoxolone study. Thankfully BEACON is in full swing enrolling patients so a definitive answer is just ahead.