Heroin vaccine blocks drug's addictive effects in preclinical trials

Researchers with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, have developed a vaccine that blocks the addictive effects of heroin and other opioids, according to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

The vaccine creates heroin antibodies, which bind to the drug in the blood and prevent it from crossing the blood-brain barrier and inducing euphoria. The vaccine proved effective in both rat and mouse preclinical trials. The vaccine also produced antibodies against hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and codeine. However, the vaccine did not produce antibodies against medicines containing low doses of opioids, such as methadone, which are used to treat opioid addiction. This suggests the vaccine could be used concurrently with such treatments.

"Although we are still in the early phase, this study suggests that vaccination can be used together with standard therapies to prevent the withdrawal and craving symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal," said Gary Matyas, PhD, chief of adjuvants and formulations for the U.S. Military Research Program at Walter Reed.

More articles on opioids: 
South Carolina governor declares opioid crisis public health emergency 
Report: Purdue Pharma used 'Wizard of Oz' film to first market OxyContin to patients, physicians 
Three physician perspectives on the opioid crisis

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