Riluzole: A new agent for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Mary L. Wagner, Barbara E. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To provide a comprehensive review of riluzole, including its mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, adverse drug reactions, drug interactions, efficacy, and administration. A brief review of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also included. DATA SOURCES: A computerized search of the MEDLINE database in May 1996 was used to identify publications regarding ALS, riluzole, and metabolism by CYPIA2. Manufacturer's information on riluzole was used when there was no primary literature. DATA SYNTHESIS: Riluzole is approximately 90% absorbed following an oral dose. Its bioavailability is 60%. Peak concentrations occur within 1-1.5 hours of administration. Riluzole extensively binds to lipoproteins and albumin. This agent primarily undergoes CYP1A2 hydroxylafion and glucuronidation, after which it is eliminated by the kidneys. Clearance is reduced in native Japanese healthy subjects and may be reduced in patients with hepatic impairment. Two trials with a total of 1114 patients addressed the efficacy of riluzole in ALS. Riluzole extended the time to tracheostomy or death, and the effect was greatest with dosages of 101 mg/d or greater. No effect on patients' symptoms or global assessment was detected at 18 or 21 months. Several flaws in these trials have led to questions concerning the validity of these results. The most commonly reported adverse effects of riluzole have been transient elevation of liver enzyme concentrations (2-5 times the upper limit of normal), worsening of asthenia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, dizziness, vertigo, somnolence, and mouth paresthesia. Not as commonly reported, but still very serious, is neutropenia, which occurred in 3 of 4000 patients. CONCLUSIONS: Although the benefits of riluzole are questionable and it is expensive, this agent may extend the time to tracheostomy or death in patients with ALS. At present, this is the only agent approved for the treatment of ALS and should be made available for these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)738-744
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Riluzole


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