|Trade names||Korsuva, Kapruvia|
|Other names||CR845, FE-202845, D-Phe-D-Phe-D-Leu-D-Lys-[γ-(4-N-piperidinyl)amino carboxylic acid]|
|Drug class||Kappa opioid receptor agonist|
|Main uses||Itchiness in those on hemodialysis|
|Side effects||Diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, risk of falling, high potassium, headache, sleepiness|
|Typical dose||0.5 mcg/kg|
|Elimination half-life||2 hours|
|Excretion||Excreted as unchanged|
drug via bile and urine
|Chemical and physical data|
|Molar mass||679.863 g·mol−1|
|3D model (JSmol)|
Difelikefalin, sold under the brand name Korsuva, is a medication used to in itchiness in those on hemodialysis due to chronic kidney disease. It may be used in moderate to severe cases. It is given by injection into a vein at the end of dialysis.
Common side effects include diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, risk of falling, high potassium, headache, and sleepiness. It should not be used in people with significant liver problems. It is a kappa opioid receptor (KOR) agonist which binds to specific nerve and immune cells to decrease itching and inflammation.
Difelikefalin was approved for medical use in the United States in 2021 and Europe in 2022. In the United Kingdom it costs the NHS about £420 per vial as of 2022. In the United States it costs about 2,000 USD per month.
It is used at a dose of 0.5 mcg/kg.
Mechanism of action
It acts by activating KORs on peripheral nerve terminals and KORs expressed by certain immune system cells. Activation of KORs on peripheral nerve terminals results in the inhibition of ion channels responsible for afferent nerve activity, causing reduced transmission of pain signals, while activation of KORs expressed by immune system cells results in reduced release of proinflammatory, nerve-sensitizing mediators (e.g., prostaglandins).
Society and culture
On 24 February 2022, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency adopted a positive opinion, recommending the granting of a marketing authorization for the medicinal product Kapruvia, intended for treatment of moderate-to-severe pruritus associated with chronic kidney disease. The applicant for this medicinal product is Vifor Fresenius Medical Care Renal Pharma France. Difelikefalin was approved for medical use in the European Union in April 2022.
It is under development by Cara Therapeutics as an intravenous agent for the treatment of postoperative pain. An oral formulation has also been developed. Due to its peripheral selectivity, difelikefalin lacks the central side effects like sedation, dysphoria, and hallucinations of previous KOR-acting analgesics such as pentazocine and phenazocine. In addition to use as an analgesic, difelikefalin is also being investigated for the treatment of pruritus (itching). Difelikefalin has completed phase II clinical trials for postoperative pain and has demonstrated significant and "robust" clinical efficacy, along with being safe and well tolerated. It has also completed a phase III clinical trial for uremic pruritus in hemodialysis patients.
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- Jeffrey Apfelbaum (8 September 2014). Ambulatory Anesthesia, An Issue of Anesthesiology Clinics. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 190–. ISBN 978-0-323-29934-3.
- Charlotte Allerton (2013). Pain Therapeutics: Current and Future Treatment Paradigms. Royal Society of Chemistry. pp. 56–. ISBN 978-1-84973-645-9.
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- Clinical trial number NCT03422653 for "A Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of CR845 in Hemodialysis Patients With Moderate-to-Severe Pruritus (KALM-1)" at ClinicalTrials.gov
- Clinical trial number NCT03636269 for "CR845-CLIN3103: A Global Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of CR845 in Hemodialysis Patients With Moderate-to-Severe Pruritus (KALM-2)" at ClinicalTrials.gov