October 21, 2009

Vaccines Possible For Drug, Nicotine Abuse

The new weapon in the war on drug and nicotine addiction may soon come in the form of a vaccine.

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told reporters that the Institute intends to convince drug companies that a vaccine for drug and nicotine addiction would be successful.

"There is an enormous amount of research and development in vaccines for cancers and a wide variety of disorders," she said at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago. "We can take advantage of those developments."

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Nabi Biopharmaceuticals with a $10 million grant for the company's late-stage clinical trial of NicVAX, a vaccine intended to help nicotine addicts kick the habit.

"When you are investing in something at this level, it can be very risky," said Volkow.

However, the risk could pay off in helping resolve "an international problem that kills 5 million individuals every year across the world," she said.

NicVAX is created to cause the immune system to create antibodies that fight against nicotine in an effort to help smokers quit.

According to Reuters, Cytos Biotechnology and Swiss drugmaker Novartis failed to meet its primary goal in a midstage study for a similar drug last week.

"They are still looking at it but it has been very problematic," said Robert Wasserman, director of investment research at the investment banking firm Dawson James in Florida.

"Vaccines are really tough," he told Reuters. "It's not for the faint of heart."

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also backed a study this month of a vaccine intended to block the sensation of cocaine in users. The study found that the vaccine worked in 38 percent of participants.


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