Scientists are reporting development and successful testing in laboratory mice of a substance that shows promise for becoming the first antidote for cocaine toxicity in humans. According to a report in ACS’ journal Molecular Pharmaceutics, the new so-called “passive vaccine” reversed the motor impairment, seizures and other dangerous symptoms of a cocaine overdose, which claims thousands of lives each year among users of the illicit drug.
Kim D. Janda and Jennifer B. Treweek explain that their previous research established the validity of using vaccines as treatments for drug addiction and contributed to the promotion of one cocaine active vaccine (and three nicotine active vaccines) to clinical evaluation in humans. These so-called “active” vaccines elicit antibodies that bind circulating cocaine (and nicotine) molecules in the blood and prevent these drug molecules from reaching the brain. In doing so, vaccinated patients are “immune” to the drug’s effects, and as a result, they feel no pleasurable effects from the drug if they backslide during recovery.
The report describes the development of a cocaine passive vaccine, which consists of pre-formed human antibodies against cocaine that are 10 times more potent in binding cocaine molecules. This improved potency accelerates their ability to reverse cocaine toxicity, where time is of the essence. When administered by emergency medical teams or in hospital emergency departments, these passive vaccines could represent a life-saving therapeutic for overdose victims. The vaccine “represents a viable treatment strategy for the human condition of cocaine overdoses,” the report concludes.