One Month Dosing of Atomoxetine plus Oxybutynin in Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Randomized, Placebo-controlled Trial

Atqiya Aishah, Kelly A. Loffler, Barbara Toson, Sutapa Mukherjee, Robert J. Adams, Thomas J. Altree, Henry W. Ainge-Allen, Brendon J. Yee, Ronald R. Grunstein, Jayne C. Carberry, Danny J. Eckert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: The combination of noradrenergic and antimuscarinic agents has recently been shown to improve upper-airway function and reduce obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) severity in short-term (⩽1 wk) proof-of-concept studies. 

Objectives: To determine the safety, tolerability, and potential efficacy of longer term use of different doses of the noradrenergic agent atomoxetine combined with the antimuscarinic oxybutynin (ato-oxy). 

Methods: Thirty-nine people with predominantly severe OSA received 80/5 mg ato-oxy, 40/5 mg ato-oxy, 40/2.5 mg ato-oxy, or placebo nightly for 30 days in a double-blind, randomized, parallel design. Participants completed three in-laboratory sleep studies (baseline, Night 1, and Night 30) to assess efficacy. Vital signs and objective measures of alertness and memory were assessed. In men, potential effects on prostate function were assessed using the International Prostate Symptom Score at baseline and Night 30. Potential adverse events were assessed during in-laboratory visits and via weekly phone calls. 

Results: Side effects were generally mild and consistent with known side-effect profiles of each individual drug (i.e., dose-dependent increases in dry mouth with oxybutynin). Heart rate increased by Night 30 in two active drug arms (mean ± standard deviation 8 ± 10 beats/min [P = 0.01] with 80/5 mg and 9 ± 14 beats/min [P = 0.02] with 40/2.5 mg vs. placebo). No clinically relevant changes in blood pressure, International Prostate Symptom Score, and measures of alertness and memory were observed between conditions. Apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) with 4% oxygen desaturation and hypoxic burden decreased by ∼50% with 80/5 mg ato-oxy from baseline but not versus placebo (e.g., AHI with 3% oxygen desaturation and AHI with 4% oxygen desaturation difference at Night 30 was -8.2 [95% confidence interval, -22.5 to 6.2] and -8.5 [95% confidence interval, -18.3 to 1.3] events/h, respectively). 

Conclusions: One month of nightly noradrenergic and antimuscarinic combination therapy was generally well tolerated, with a side-effect profile consistent with each agent alone, and was associated with an ∼50% reduction from baseline in a key OSA severity metric, the hypoxic burden with the highest dose combination. These findings highlight the potential to target noradrenergic and antimuscarinic mechanisms for OSA pharmacotherapy development. 

Clinical trial registered with (ACTRN 12619001153101).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-595
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • antimuscarinic
  • noradrenergic
  • pharmacotherapy
  • sleep-disordered breathing
  • upper airway


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