Potential new treatment for depression

Utilising a pain relief drug and a drug used in addiction therapy, there’s a potential new treatment for depression

Scientists hope it will get through clinical trials and regulatory bodies quickly, as both drugs are already licensed for other conditions.

Scientists have created a potential new treatment for depression by combining a medication for pain relief with one for combating addiction.

Current antidepressants, called SSRIs, increase the level of serotonin in the brain although the exact mechanism by which they work is unclear. Between 30% and 50% of patients don’t respond to the treatment, which can take several weeks to work and cause significant side effects, researchers say.

Mental Health LogoA team at the University of Bath have combined buprenorphine, a painkiller used post-surgery, and naltrexone, a drug used for treating addiction.

Their combination, which targets a different pathway in the brain to SSRIs, produced antidepressant-like responses in mice.

Researchers believe the time it would take to perform clinical trials and gain regulatory approval for the treatment could be reduced as both drugs are already licensed for other conditions.

Dr Sarah Bailey, senior lecturer at the University of Bath’s Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, said: “Whilst SSRIs work for a lot of people, they can cause serious side effects and don’t work for everyone.

“No new drugs for depression have been developed for decades – they all work in a similar way – so there’s an urgent need to develop new treatments for this condition that affects around four million adults in the UK.”

Buprenorphine reduces the patient’s response to stress by blocking a receptor in the brain called the kappa opioid.

But it also stimulates a related receptor called the mu opioid, which could cause addictive effects if taken long term or used by depressed patients.

To counter this, the researchers used the anti-addiction drug naltrexone, which blocks the mu receptor. They found for the first time that in mice this combination gave an antidepressant effect.

Dr Bailey added: “Our study shows that using a combination of naltrexone and buprenorphine gives an antidepressant effect in mice, but without the problems of addiction that could be caused by using buprenorphine alone.

“Developing new drugs is a lengthy process, with lots of safety tests and trials to go through. These two drugs have already gone through that process individually, so we know they are safe. There still need to be further trials of the combination in humans, but the whole process of developing this as a new treatment would be greatly reduced.”

Co-author Professor Steve Husbands added: “It may be hard to deliver this combination in the clinic because of the properties of these drugs. We have also been working on changing the chemistry of buprenorphine so that it has the properties of this combination treatment in one molecule which should simplify drug delivery.”

The team has published their findings in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Source: bt.com/news

“It’s interesting news and we can only hope it’s not another false dawn, as in the successful provision of many ‘still in the lab’ treatments “

Drugs Companies Giving Up On Alzheimer’s

James Moore’s comments in the Independent regarding the revelation that drug companies are giving up research on treatments for Alzheimers disease which appears to be nothing less than shameful.

Alzheimer’s is a hideous condition that exacts a brutal toll on sufferers and their families. It is already one of the developed world’s most pressing health problems. demographics may soon make it the most pressing.

ScientistThere is no shortage in the market for treatments. The trouble is that the cost of developing new therapies and then getting them through the regulatory systems of developed countries is extremely high. The approvals process is rigorous, as it should be, but it causes costs to escalate towards the end of a drug’s development leaving companies with huge bills should they fall at the final hurdle. Those costs are then recovered through the pricing of new drugs but the problem remains.

It is now 12 years since the last treatment was licensed in the UK.

Pharmaceuticals firms develop close to 90 per cent of new drugs but they are not charities. Their job is to earn a return on their product’s for their shareholders. So while it is dismaying that research has ground to a halt, it is hardly surprising that they have chosen to focus more on profitable lines. Railing against commercial reality is a pointless exercise. Yet the need to take action on Alzheimer’s remains urgent. Quite apart from the toll in human misery it exacts, the costs are truly staggering.

The launch by the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK of a Drug Discovery Alliance is therefore an important development. It will see the creation of a network of £30m research centres, involving 90 scientists at Oxford, Cambridge and University College London, who will spearhead the search for new treatments.

Such a collaborative effort is vital if progress is to be made, and further work along these lines would be welcome. So would the involvement of the state. There are always calls on the public purse but the potential time bomb that lurks beneath the social care budget as the numbers of those afflicted by Alzheimer’s grows ought to concentrate efforts.

But the drug industry could play a role too, for it ultimately stands to benefit in one way or another. It needs to recognise that if it cannot do the work on it’s own, it could at least make greater efforts to assist those that can. Corporate social responsibility demands it, and so does common humanity.

“In the UK, 850,000 people live with dementia. Every year, 225,000 people develop Alzheimer’s and on current trends, prevalence will more than double by 2050”