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Diabetes Drug Could Be Effective in Treating Addiction

Early data suggest new role for exenatide (Oct. 23)

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have reported that a drug currently used to treat type 2 diabetes could be just as effective in treating addiction to drugs, including cocaine.

The findings, published online on October 23 as a letter to the editor in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, could have far-reaching implications for patients worldwide who suffer from addiction, the university says.

The researchers demonstrated that a brain mechanism known to be therapeutic for the treatment of diabetes also appears to be implicated in at least certain types of drug addiction. They found that the drug exendin-4, which is used for the medical management of diabetes, reduces the rewarding effects of cocaine in animals. The researchers suspect that this mechanism will translate to additional drugs of abuse, especially other stimulants, such as amphetamine and methamphetamine.

Exenatide, a synthetic version of exendin-4, is FDA-approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes as Byetta and Bydureon (Amlyn Pharmaceuticals). Exenatide is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.

After injecting animals with exendin-4, the researchers observed a significant blunting of the rewarding effects of cocaine. The findings were consistent, regardless of the exendin-4 dose administered, the authors reported. The study found no evidence of negative side effects or addiction to the drug.

Investigator Gregg Stanwood, PhD, said that although it is important to be cautious in extrapolating the results into the human population, the data are promising. Addiction in a human being is a complex disorder with a variety of genetic and environmental factors at play, he said, so it is unlikely that all people with drug addiction would respond homogeneously to treatment with exendin-4.

Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, October 23, 2012.

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