Objective To study the effect of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) treatment in jerky and tremulous functional movement disorders (FMD).
Methods Patients with invalidating, chronic (>1 year) symptoms were randomly assigned to two subsequent treatments with BoNT or placebo every 3 months with stratification according to symptom localisation. Improvement on the dichotomised Clinical Global Impression-Improvement scale (CGI-I) (improvement vs no change or worsening) at 4 months, assessed by investigators blinded to the allocated treatment was the primary outcome. Subsequently all patients were treated with BoNT in a ten month open-label phase.
Results Between January 2011 and February 2015 a total of 239 patients were screened for eligibility of whom 48 patients were included. No difference was found on the primary outcome (BoNT 16 of 25 (64.0%) vs Placebo 13 of 23 patients (56.5%); proportional difference 0.075 (95% CI -0.189 to 0.327; p=0.77). Secondary outcomes (symptom severity, disease burden, disability, quality of life and psychiatric symptoms) showed no between-group differences. The open-label phase showed improvement on the CGI-I in 19/43 (44.2%) of remaining patients, with a total of 35/43 (81.4%) improvement compared with baseline.
Conclusions In this double-blind randomised controlled trial of BoNT for chronic jerky and tremulous FMD, we found no evidence of improved outcomes compared with placebo. Motor symptoms improved in a large proportion in both groups which was sustained in the open-label phase. This study underlines the substantial potential of chronic jerky and tremulous FMD patients to recover and may stimulate further exploration of placebo-therapies in these patients.