Introduction of sapropterin dihydrochloride as standard of care in patients with phenylketonuria

H. J. Vernon, C. B. Koerner, M. R. Johnson, A. Bergner, A. Hamosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Sapropterin dihydrochloride, a synthetic, stable form of the tetrahydrobiopterin cofactor of phenylalanine hydroxylase, has been shown to reduce plasma phenylalanine (Phe) levels in a significant portion of patients with phenylketonuria (PKU). When we undertook introducing this medication to our PKU clinic population, the challenges of recalling and reconnecting with a variably treated and variably compliant patient population became apparent. We offered a trial of sapropterin to all of our clinic patients with PKU. In order to determine responsiveness, we used a two tier dose escalation protocol. After diet records were taken, and baseline plasma Phe levels were established, a 7-day trial of sapropterin at 10 mg/kg/day was started. At day 8, plasma phenylalanine levels were measured. Patients were considered to be responders if they had a 30% reduction in plasma Phe. If they did not respond, the dose of sapropterin was increased to 20 mg/kg/day, and levels were rechecked again in 8 days. Patients who were not responders at this time continued sapropterin for a total of 30 days and had Phe levels checked one last time. Patients who were responders and who were on a Phe-restricted diet underwent gradual liberalization of their diet to the maximum tolerated natural protein intake while still maintaining plasma levels in the acceptable treatment range of 120-360 μmol/L. In our population, 36/39 patients with hyperphenylalaninemia (HPA) who were offered a trial of sapropterin elected to start sapropterin. Five of 36 patients were non-adherent with diet records and/or medication doses and we were unable to determine if they were responders. We were unable to categorize 2 of 31 of the patients who completed the trial as responders due to dietary issues, though they were probably responders. Of the 29 patients who completed the sapropterin trial and we could categorize, 18/29 (62%) were determined to be responders. Patients were classified based on their off-diet diagnostic plasma phenylalanine levels as classical PKU (>1200 μmol/L) and variant PKU (>400 and <1200 μmol/L). The group with variant PKU had a 100% response rate, and patients with classical PKU had a 27% response rate. For the patients in the responder group who were on Phe-restricted diet, we were able to liberalize most diets, in two cases to unrestricted protein intake. We also had unexpected beneficial findings in our clinic experience, including positive behavioral improvements in an adult severely affected by untreated PKU. Even in patients who were not considered to be responders, the introduction of sapropterin provided a tool to reconnect with patients and re-introduce beneficial dietary measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-233
Number of pages5
JournalMolecular genetics and metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Phenylketonuria
  • Sapropterin dihydrochloride
  • Tetrahydrobiopterin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology


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