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Sleep. 2018 Aug 1;41(8). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy109.

A randomized, subject and rater-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of dimethyl fumarate for obstructive sleep apnea.

Author information

Department of Neurology, Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disorders Centers, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Department of Neurology, Holtom-Garrett Program in Neuroimmunology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Department of Neurology, Sleep Disorders Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI.


Study Objectives:

To investigate the therapeutic effect of dimethyl fumarate (DMF, an immunomodulatory agent) on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and potential influence of any such effect by selected proinflammatory molecules.


Patients with OSA who deferred positive airway pressure therapy were randomized (2:1) to receive DMF or placebo for 4 months. Participants underwent polysomnography before randomization and at 4 months. Blood was collected monthly. The primary outcome was the mean group change in respiratory disturbance index (δ-RDI). Secondary analyses focused on the association between treatment effect of DMF (on RDI) and expression of plasma cytokines and chemokines, or nuclear factor κ-B (NFκB) signaling molecules in peripheral blood mononuclear cells.


N = 65 participants were randomized. N = 50 participants (DMF = 35, placebo = 15) had complete data for final analyses. The mean difference in δ-RDI between groups was 13.3 respiratory events/hour of sleep: -3.1+/-12.9 vs. 10.2+/-13.1 in DMF and placebo groups, respectively (mixed-effects model treatment effect: β = -0.14, SE = 0.062, p = 0.033). Plasma levels of TNF-α showed only nonsignificant decreases, and IL-10 and IL-13 only nonsignificant increases, in DMF-treated participants compared with placebo. No significant interaction or main effect on RDI for selected cytokines and chemokines was found. Participants with a therapeutic response to DMF did experience significant reductions in intracellular NFκB signaling molecules at 4 months. Overall, DMF was well-tolerated.


The immunomodulatory drug DMF partially ameliorates OSA severity. Suppression of systemic inflammation through reduction of NFκB signaling may mediate this effect.

Clinical Trials:, NCT02438137,

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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