DRUG ADDICTION: Vaccine May Block Users’ High
Scientists at yesterday's meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans announced research on synthetic antibodies that "may someday be used to immunize people against cocaine and other drugs to block the rush that users crave," the AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports. Dr. Michael Owen, a pharmacologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, who plans to begin testing a PCP overdose treatment this year, said, "Our goal would be to protect against the sudden unexpected urge to use [a drug], so that if the patient used it, he wouldn't get the effects." To create the antibodies, researchers attach drug molecules to a protein large enough to signal the body's immune system -- a treatment that could "prompt the body to make its own antibodies." Another potential approach: Scientists would work with laboratory animals to create antibodies directly, and then inject those animal antibodies into patients. Both methods would short-circuit the drug molecules' path to the brain. Such antibodies could treat an overdose or block the effects of a drug over time.
Cocaine addiction is particularly potent as, of the 900,000 users who seek treatment each year, 75% return to the drug. Owen said, "Maybe if we had something to help them out for the initial period, it might boost the efficacy to keep them in longer." Currently, a Massachusetts-based biomedical firm is conducting human trials of a cocaine vaccine that has "virtually no side effects" and led some participants to conclude that cocaine "doesn't seem to have the bang that it used to have" (8/24).