Washington State developing drugs to combat nicotine addiction is a step in the right direction

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Following the announcement that Washington State University are developing drugs to treat nicotine addiction, Rahael Maladwala, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on what this could mean for the addiction market and if this research could be used in other addiction indications:

“Scientists at Washington State University recently revealed they have been working on a variety of drugs to treat nicotine addiction. Most of these drugs target the liver enzyme CYP2A6, which metabolises nicotine in the body and attempts to slow its activity; theoretically, this will increase the amount of time nicotine lasts in the body, reduce cravings and reduce the effect of withdrawal symptoms.

“While these drugs are still in the embryonic stages of development they provide some positive news for nicotine addicted patients, and looking to the future, it will be interesting to see if the knowledge gained from developing these drugs can be used in other forms of addiction, namely alcohol, and opioid.”

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances to consume and studies have shown that cigarette smoking contributes to 1 in 5 deaths in the US, and 87% of lung cancer deaths each year. There has been a concerted effort to educate the public about the dangers of smoking, but it is still a large problem in the US.

“Pharmaceutical treatment is available, with nicotine replacement and other medications for smoking cessation FDA approved; however, there relapse rate within six months of stopping still hovers around 75% for smokers. The hope for the drugs that Washington State is developing is that they lessen the impact of withdrawal symptoms, which in turn leads to lower relapse rates.

“The next steps for Washington State is to test the wider impact of inhibiting the CYP2A6 enzyme, to see if it has any other effects on the body, which may compromise the safety of patients, after this the molecule can be submitted to the FDA and if approved clinical trials can begin. If this can lead to a drug that successfully reduces withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction, it may lead to research which can then be used to develop drugs to combat other forms of addiction such as alcohol and opioid; while these would throw up their own challenges there it would be a step in the right direction.”

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