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Anti-Epileptic Drug Curbs Cocaine Use in First Study Comparing Placebo Dose
Date:11/11/2009

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About 30 million people in the United States have used cocaine, and about one to three million would be considered addicted, experts say. There are no medicines approved for cocaine addiction.
   
The current study is the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the drug in addicts. The men and women who signed on to the trial arrived to the clinic as part of their parole requirements after being released from prison. They had an average daily use of two grams per day for about nine years. They agreed to be part of the study even though half of them would end up on a placebo. The medicine is a powder that they mixed with orange juice.
   
At the end of three months, four times as many people taking vigabatrin completely stopped using cocaine for at least three weeks compared to those swallowing a placebo powder in their juice. They were also far more likely to report abstinence from alcohol.
   
There have been concerns moving forward with this drug. One of the reasons it was not approved in the U.S. until recently was that there is a rare but troubling side effect: a narrowing of visual field. And there are indications these defects could grow more serious over time.
   
Dr. Dewey and Dr. Brody teamed with a biotech company - Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners - that has licensed the use of the drug for the treatment of cocaine addiction. They have a long way to go before vigabatrin could be used to treat addictions. They need much larger studies and must figure out how much to give and whether it could be given over a long-term period. In the current study, the only side effect was tiredness.
   
Dr. Dewey's research on the addicted brain has led him into Long Island schools to educate young people, parents and teachers on the dangers of the brain on drugs. His lectures and town hall
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