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Cocaine Vaccine Studied

Friday November 6, 2009
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Immunization with an anti-cocaine vaccine results in a significant reduction in cocaine use, according to a clinical trial reported in the October 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that attach themselves to cocaine molecules in the blood and prevent them from passing through the blood-brain barrier, thereby inhibiting or blocking cocaine-induced euphoria.

A team at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recently carried out the trial to test the vaccine’s effectiveness, with funding primarily from NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. The trial included 115 patients from a methadone maintenance program who were randomly assigned to receive the anti-cocaine vaccine or a placebo vaccine. The participants received five vaccinations over a 12-week period.

Researchers reported that participants who generated the highest antibody levels in response to the vaccine had the greatest reductions in cocaine use. Thirty-eight percent attained blood levels of anti-cocaine antibodies thought to be sufficient to block cocaine’s euphoric effects. During weeks nine to 16 (when antibody levels peaked), these participants had significantly more cocaine-free urine samples (45%) than those who received the placebo or those with active vaccine but low levels of antibodies (35%).

The researchers reported no serious adverse effects from the vaccine.

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