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Researchers Developing Cocaine Addiction Treatment Drug
The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy will be using a $3.7 million grant to develop a drug to treat cocaine addiction that includes an active ingredient found in some Chinese prescription medicines. In 2007, there were 2.1 million cocaine users in the U.S., and today about one in six Americans have tried the drug by age 30.
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) presented the five-year grant to Jia Bei Wang, PhD, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the School of Pharmacy.
Wang and her colleagues will develop a drug using the compound l-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP), an active ingredient in some Chinese medicines. Previous studies have shown that 1-THP alters the effects of cocaine on the brain’s reward system, making the drug less appealing to rats who were once addicted to cocaine. In addition, a human trial in China in 2008 found that 1-THP reduced cravings after detoxification.
Wang’s team plans to test the same drug on humans in the new studies. If proven effective, the drug will be the first in the United States, and possibly the world, to treat cocaine addiction.
Wang said that their study will address an unmet need for treating cocaine addiction, adding that the 1-THP compound alters the activity of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that are important in the brain’s response to addictive drugs.
Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FAAPS, dean of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said that 1-THP could be the first effective medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction in the United States, and if approved, it could add to the current therapy approaches used to treat addiction.
Six months ago, Wang provided NIDA with samples of 1-THP from China, and has extensively studied research on the drug. She said that she’s always thought about using Chinese medicine as a resource for drug addiction treatment in the United States.
Source: University of Maryland Baltimore, $3.7 Million Grant to Develop Drug to Treat Cocaine Addition is University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s Largest Ever from NIH, September 20, 2010