Difelikefalin improves itch-related sleep disruption in patients undergoing haemodialysis

Author Department

Nephrology; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Background: Poor sleep quality is associated with increased mortality and lower quality of life in patients with chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus (CKD-aP). Difelikefalin reduces itch in patients with CKD-aP undergoing haemodialysis. This post hoc analysis of Phase 3 studies (3105 and the pooled dataset from KALM-1 and KALM-2) evaluated whether itch reduction in CKD-aP improved sleep quality.

Methods: Itch intensity was assessed in patients undergoing haemodialysis, who had moderate-to-severe CKD-aP treated with intravenous difelikefalin (0.5 µg/kg, three times weekly) (N = 222, Study 3105; N = 426, KALM-1/-2) or placebo (N = 425, KALM-1/-2) for 12 weeks, using the Worst Itch Intensity Numerical Rating Scale (WI-NRS). Sleep quality was assessed using the sleep disability question of the 5-D itch scale (5‑D SDQ) in all studies and, in Study 3105, with the Sleep Quality Numeric Rating Scale (SQ-NRS).

Results: Greater improvements in sleep quality were observed in patients with ≥ 3-point, versus < 3-point WI-NRS improvement using SQ-NRS in Study 3105 (mean [95% confidence interval]: -5.2 [-5.6, -4.8] vs -1.5 [-2.0, -1.0]) and 5-D SDQ in KALM-1/-2 (-1.8 [-2.1, -1.6] vs -0.8 [-1.1, -0.4]). SQ-NRS and WI-NRS scores correlated strongly at baseline and Week 12 in Study 3105 (Spearman correlation coefficient: 0.77 and 0.84, respectively). Correlations were also observed between 5-D SDQ and WI-NRS scores in Study 3105 and KALM‑1/‑2.

Conclusions: In patients undergoing haemodialysis with moderate-to-severe CKD-aP, itch reduction with intravenous difelikefalin was associated with improved sleep quality. As disturbed sleep may contribute to mortality and morbidity in CKD-aP, difelikefalin may help to address a major clinical burden by improving sleep quality, secondary to itch relief.

Keywords: chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus; difelikefalin; haemodialysis; itch; sleep.