US Pharm. 2010;35(10):88.
The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy received a $3.7 million grant to develop a drug to treat cocaine addiction. The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded the 5-year research grant to Jia Bei Wang, PhD, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences, to develop a drug based on a molecule originally discovered in the extract of Chinese herbs. Wang and her colleagues from the university's schools of pharmacy and medicine will develop a drug from a compound called l-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP). If proven effective, it will be the first drug developed and approved in the United States, and possibly anywhere in the world, to treat cocaine addiction.There were 2.1 million cocaine users in the U.S. according to a 2007 NIDA report, and today it estimates about one in six Americans have tried cocaine by age 30. Two earlier studies sponsored by the NIH found l-THP weakens the cocaine benefit of brain stimulation in rats. In addition, a 2008 trial of humans in China reported that l-THP reduced cravings and helped addicts after detoxification. “Our project fits this award mechanism very well because we are addressing an unmet need for treating cocaine addiction,” says Wang. “The compound alters the activity of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that are instrumental in the human body's response to addictive drugs.”