HEAL STUDY (Hepatic Encephalopathy and Albumin Study)

Conditions:Neurology, Gastrointestinal, Gastrointestinal
Therapuetic Areas:Gastroenterology, Neurology
Age Range:18 - Any
Start Date:June 20, 2018
End Date:July 20, 2020
Contact:Leslie Yost-Schomer, RN
Phone:804 675 6407

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HEAL STUDY (Hepatic Encephalopathy and Albumin Study): A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial Of Albumin In Hepatic Encephalopathy

Patients with continued cognitive impairment after episodes of HE have few options beyond
lactulose and rifaximin in the US. Therefore using IV albumin in a randomized, double-blind,
placebo-controlled trial, which could beneficially impact inflammation, could be an
additional approach to improve cognition.

This 6 week trial will study changes in cognition, HRQOL and inflammation in patients with
covert HE after prior overt HE using multiple IV albumin infusions vs. placebo.

Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a highly prevalent neuro-cognitive complication of cirrhosis
characterized by cognitive dysfunction, and high rate of subsequent mortality and recurrence.
HE also places a tremendous burden with a relentless increase in inpatient stay duration with
charges topping $7244.7 million in 2009. There were almost 23,000 hospitalizations for HE in
2009 and far more patients with HE who are being managed as an outpatient in the US. In the
NACSELD (North American Consortium for the Study of End-Stage Liver Disease) experience
supported by Grifols, HE in inpatients is an independent risk factor for mortality and also
the leading cause of readmissions in patients with cirrhosis.

HE has two major phases, an acute inpatient phase, where patients undergo evaluation for
precipitating factors and HE treatment, and the post-discharge phase after HE resolution
where the patient has a normal mental status but may be cognitively impaired. Furthermore, it
is being increasingly recognized that even after the resolution of an acute HE episode with
normal mental status and ability to understand and consent, patients do not regain their
pre-HE cognitive function despite maximal therapy with the current standard of care. As many
as 70% of patients with HE, despite standard of care, have residual significant cognitive
impairments. Studies show that patients with HE, despite being on these medications which are
standard of care, continue to have significant cognitive impairment translating into poor
health-related quality of life (HRQOL), poor employment status, and very poor socio-economic
status. This residual cognitive impairment is proportional to the number of HE episodes and
places a heavy medical and socio-economic burden on patients, caregivers and society. In some
cases, this approximates a dementia-like situation and makes this situation very difficult to

These patients have three options in the current therapeutic situation which can improve
brain function. However all of these options have problems in widespread acceptance or
eligibility. First, if the patients are hyponatremic, correction of hyponatremia using
tolvaptan can help but tolvaptan is now not FDA-approved for cirrhosis. Second a selected
group of patients can undergo porto-systemic shunt embolization if their MELD score is <11
and they have a double shunt, which is the minority of individuals. Lastly a small trial done
by our group showed improvement with fecal transplant but this requires several more years of
study before this becomes mainstream.

Therefore, there is a major need for treating this continued cognitive impairment for which
there are currently no widely-available therapeutic agents available but which can improve in
selected cases. A medication or strategy that shows improvement in this functioning will be
rapidly assimilated into the therapeutic algorithm and will potentially affect several
thousand patients and their caregivers who continue to suffer from this issue.

There is strong evidence that this persistent cognitive impairment is accompanied by a
sustained pro-inflammatory state that is not quenched by our current standard of care15.
Ammonia, inflammation, endotoxemia, oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction play an
important role in the pathogenesis of HE. There is also evidence that in patients with
advanced cirrhosis, i.e. those who are predisposed to HE, of reduction in albumin
concentration and capacity to bind to these metabolites that precipitate HE.

Inclusion Criteria:

- 1. Age >18 years 2. Cirrhosis defined by any one of the following

1. Cirrhosis on liver biopsy or transient wave elastography

2. Nodular liver on imaging

3. Endoscopic or radiological evidence of varices in a patient with chronic liver

4. Platelet count <150,000/mm3 and AST/ALT ratio >1 in a patient with chronic liver

5. Patients with frank decompensation (ascites, HE, variceal bleeding,
hepato-pulmonary syndrome) 3. Prior HE controlled on standard of care therapy
defined as lactulose or rifaximin for at least 2 months prior to enrollment.

4. Serum albumin <4 gm/dl 5. Cognitive impairment on any of the three testing
strategies for HE including Psychometric hepatic encephalopathy score (PHES),
Stroop test and Critical Flicker Frequency

1. PHES aggregate score <-4SD based on norms published in Allampati et al located at
the website www.encephalapp.com

2. Stroop OffTime+OnTime values greater than norms published in Allampati et al
located at the website www.encephalapp.com

3. Critical Flicker Frequency value <39 Hz

Exclusion Criteria:

- 1. Unclear diagnosis of cirrhosis (does not meet the criteria outlined above) 2. No
prior overt HEepisodes 3. HE uncontrolled on standard of care defined as a mini-mental
status exam<25 4. On regular IV albumin infusions due to scheduled paracentesis within
the last 3 months 5. Recent alcohol abuse (within 3 months) 6. Unable to give consent
7. Current or recent invasive bacterial or fungal infections (<1 month) 8. Allergic
reactions to IV albumin 9. Current or recent congestive heart failure (Systolic
ejection fraction <25%) within the last year 10. Pregnancy (positive urine pregnancy
test at screening) 11. In the opinion of the PI, those who are unlikely to survive 6
weeks or be able to adhere to the trial activities.
We found this trial at
Richmond, Virginia 23249
Principal Investigator: Jasmohan S Bajaj, MD, MSc
Phone: 804-675-5021
Richmond, VA
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