Magazine article Drug Topics

Chance Discovery

Magazine article Drug Topics

Chance Discovery

Article excerpt

Thanks to an accidental discovery, secretin has gone from an almost unknown gastrointestinal diagnostic agent to potentially the first pharmacologic treatment for autism. The intestinal hormone's rise to fame came after a mother requested that it be given to her three year-old autistic child who was undergoing an endoscopy. A short time after the administration, the formerly nonverbal child began using words and simple sentences. Further treatments resulted in improvement in his expressive language, ability to relate to others, and capacity to learn.

Since that rather surprising event, the agent has been prescribed for the off-label indication by more than 100 physicians to over 1,000 patients. Anzhela Krimer Zindel, M.S., a speech therapist and special educator who works with autistic children at New York's Public School 225, has observed the effects of the drug in two students. "One child did not appear to undergo any changes in behavior, while another did show some progress through improved attentiveness, increased participation in class activities, and a reduction in aggressive behavior." Zindel did not report any significant changes in the communication skills of the two children.

Repligen Corp. recently acquired exclusive patent rights to applications of secretin and plans to manufacture a synthetic, human form of the compound for autism.

Time to expand

Well known for many years as a powerful immunosuppressant utilized for preventing rejection of transplanted organs, cyclosporin may be headed for another use. The drug has been found in animal studies to protect the brain and spine from a multitude of neurologic insults, including stroke, trauma, and neurodegenerative diseases. The agent's proposed mechanisms of neuroprotection include prevention of destructive calcium-dependent enzyme cascades, reduction of intracellular free radicals, and blockade of apoptotic neuron death.

Stick it where?

A researcher at the University of Mississippi may have devised a way of administering marijuana that would bypass the resulting psychological high that comes from smoking the age-old weed. The somewhat uncomfortable yet very effective rectal route may be the new way to give the drug for medicinal purposes, such as nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and AIDS-related wasting. Apparently a time-released rectal suppository allows for increased absorption of marijuana's active ingredient THC while minimizing psychological side effects that result from a sudden, high-level rush of the drug into the blood stream. …

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