Belcher JM, Parada XV, Simonetto DA, Juncos LA, Karakala N, Wadei HM, Sharma P, Regner KR, Nadim MK, Garcia-Tsao G, Velez JCQ, Parikh SM, Chung RT, Allegretti AS
Hepatorenal syndrome (HRS) is a form of acute kidney injury (AKI) occurring in patients with advanced cirrhosis and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The pathophysiology underlying HRS begins with increasing portal pressures leading to the release of vasodilatory substances that result in pooling blood in the splanchnic system and a corresponding reduction in effective circulating volume. Compensatory activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and release of arginine vasopressin serve to defend mean arterial pressure but at the cost of severe constriction of the renal vasculature, leading to a progressive, often fulminant form of AKI. There are no approved treatments for HRS in the United States, but multiple countries, including much of Europe, use terlipressin, a synthetic vasopressin analogue, as a first-line therapy. CONFIRM (A Multi-Center, Randomized, Placebo Controlled, Double-Blind Study to Confirm Efficacy and Safety of Terlipressin in Subjects With Hepatorenal Syndrome Type 1), the third randomized trial based in North America evaluating terlipressin, met its primary end point of showing greater rates of HRS reversal in the terlipressin arm. However, due to concerns about the apparent increased rates of respiratory adverse events and a lack of evidence for mortality benefit, terlipressin was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We explore the history of regulatory approval for terlipressin in the United States, examine the results from CONFIRM and the concerns they raised, and consider the future role of terlipressin in this critical clinical area of continued unmet need.