Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

New Drug May Help Cocaine Addicts Quit

Kicking a dangerous habit may now be easier than ever. The Georgetown University Medical Center’s Drug Discovery Program has recently developed a new drug, Nocaine, intended to help cocaine addicts withdraw from usage. Alan Kozikowski, professor of neurology and director of the Drug Development Program, designed and created the drug.

Under the direction of psychiatry professor William L. Woolverton, scientists at the University of Mississippi Medical Center found that research animals responded positively to the drug. Animals worked harder to get doses of Nocaine than to receive a placebo. In addition, the animals exerted even more effort when trying to obtain doses of actual cocaine.

“Our study results imply that Nocaine is a weak reinforcer – meaning that it provides some of cocaine’s effects, but at a much lower level,” Woolverton said. The advantage of a weak reinforcer is its lack of abuse by users.

“Our studies have shown that Nocaine would likely blunt the aversive effects associated with cocaine abstinence, enabling addicts to gradually and safely withdraw from the drug,” Kozikowski said.

The Medical Center’s Associate Director of Media Relations Beth Porter agreed that the drug is encouraging. She explained that Nocaine does not appear to be as addictive as cocaine but has enough similar qualities to make people want to take it. “Compare it to using a nicotine patch to stop smoking – the patch does not provide all of the effects that tobacco users find enjoyable, but it provides them with enough nicotine to help them gradually withdraw,” Porter said.

Porter admitted that at this point, there is no way to tell whether this drug will work on humans, but she is confident that clinical studies will show an effect. “Animal testing shows us how a drug is likely to work in people, because many animals are biologically similar to humans. We are optimistic that humans will respond to the drug,” Porter said.

The Food and Drug Administration approval process will likely begin in early 2003 depending on the outcome of final toxicology studies. This process involves three phases. In Phase One, the drug is tested on a small group of people for the first time. At this point, researchers are chiefly interested in the harmful effects of the drug rather than its effectiveness. If the drug passes, it would move to Phase Two, which focuses on the effectiveness of the drug and involves a larger group of test subjects.

According to FDA statistics, only 33 percent of new drugs pass this phase. Then the drug would then move to Phase Three, where it is tested on thousands of people. Scientists measure how well this drug works as compared to existing treatments. These Phase Three trials take several years to complete and according to Porter, “Only a small percentage of drugs in development ever make it to the mass market.”

The study will be published in the October issue of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Georgetown currently holds the patent on the drug, and has licensed it to Biostream, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, Mass.

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