Researchers Develop Anti-Opioid Vaccine
Potentially a Valuable Addition to Combat Opioid Addiction
Scientists at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research announced Monday that they’ve developed a heroin vaccine that can block the euphoric effects of opioids in the brain—and do so without interfering with other therapies used to treat addiction. If the concept proves useful in people, it could provide a bridge to recovery for the growing population of patients trying to overcome their addiction.
The vaccine, co-developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), works by producing antibodies that prevent heroin from crossing the blood-brain barrier. In a report by Fierce Biotech, the researchers showed the vaccine also produces antibodies against hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine and other commonly abused substances. The research was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
One of the challenges of developing anti-opioid treatments is making sure they don’t interfere with treatments that are already being used against addiction, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. The Walter Reed scientists found no such cross-reaction between their vaccine and those compounds, nor did they find any interference with naloxone, the drug used to reverse opioid overdoses.
The researchers envisioned another potential problem with their vaccine, however: What would happen if a vaccinated addict in recovery needed pain relief due to an injury? So they tested the antibodies produced by the vaccine and discovered that they did not bind to certain other narcotics, like tramadol, nor did they bind to non-narcotic pain relievers such as acetaminophen.
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