A new study opens the door to optimism in the treatment of heroin addiction, a substance that killed thousands of Spaniards in the 1980s and is currently a national health problem in the United States. The work, published in Molecular Pharmaceutics, confirms the safety and efficacy in animal models of a new vaccine and hopes to receive approval to carry out human trials in the near future.
Heroin is a major problem in the United States. The epidemic of deaths in 2016 reached 35,000 due to overdose of heroin, a figure that according to forecasts has been exceeded in 2017. Even President Donald Trump called the problem a “national emergency” in August last year. At the moment in Spain the consumption of this substance remains stable; but the tragedy occurred between the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 90s is still very close.
Now, a team of scientists from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla (California, USA) has achieved an important milestone in developing a safe and effective vaccine to treat heroin addiction and block the lethal overdose of this drug.
The team is waiting to receive the approval to start clinical trials in humans after considering that it is safe candidate. Their research, published on February 13th in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, reveals that the new formulation against heroin is safe in animal models, and remains stable at room temperature for at least 30 days.
Improve the effectiveness of the vaccine
Experiments with rodents revealed that the best vaccine formulation contained a carrier protein called tetanus toxoid (TT), adjuvants alum (composed of insoluble aluminum salts), and cytosine-guanine oligodeoxynucleotide (CpG ODN).
The finding that alum worked best was especially significant since it is one of the few adjuvants used in vaccines already approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The researchers showed that the vaccine protected against lethal doses of heroin, an especially important fact given that many people addicted to heroin die from an overdose.
Once finish all the testing and approval process, the next step would be to find a pharmaceutical laboratory that develops the vaccine on a large scale. The authors consider that a vaccine that cures heroin addiction would be tremendously beneficial in people who have a disorder due to the abuse of this drug but have found difficult to quit.