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Common ICU drug blocks cardiovascular effects of cocaine

An intensive care unit drug commonly used as a sedative may have the ability to counteract the effects of cocaine on the human cardiovascular system, according to a US study

An intensive care unit drug commonly used as a sedative may have the ability to counteract the effects of cocaine on the human cardiovascular system, according to a US study.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center published details of their discovery in the 14 August issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Precedex (dexmedetomidine), which is manufactured by US-based Orion, was found to lower the heart rate and blood pressure in a clinical trial involving 22 volunteers who had taken a small dose of the drug. Researchers also found that the drug reduced sympathetic nerve activity in the subjects who had taken cocaine.

Dr Wanpen Vongpatanasin, the study's senior author, said: "We have found that cocaine's effects on the cardiovascular system can be reversed by dexmedetomidine, which is currently approved by the FDA for anaesthetic purposes in operating rooms or intensive care units."

The new treatment would prove superior to the current regimen of nitroglycerin, sedatives and blood pressure medications used to treat cocaine-induced medical disorders, because dexmedetomidine also reverses cocaine's adverse effects on heart rate, blood pressure and vascular resistance.

The study authors said further research was needed to see if dexmedetomidine could be used to treat acute cocaine overdose in accident and emergency units.

30th September 2008

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