Heart Drug May Prevent Cocaine Relapse

ATLANTA, Aug. 31 (UPI) — The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston completed a Phase I safety trial studying a heart failure drug for treatment of cocaine, researchers say.

To confirm the beneficial effects of dopamine beta-hydroxylase inhibition, researchers turned to the drug nepicastat — developed in the 1990s to treat congestive heart failure.


Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta say nepicastat was tried after the drug disulfiram — which interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol and results in a bad hangover — was found to prevent cocaine addiction relapse.

“Disulfiram interferes with alcohol metabolism, but it inhibits several other enzymes by sequestering copper and can also damage the liver,” study senior author David Weinshenker of Emory University says in a statement. “We wanted to figure out how disulfiram was working so we could come up with safer and potentially more effective treatments.”

Weinshenker and colleagues studied the drug in rats and found disulfiram prevents rats from seeking cocaine after a break — a model for addicts tempted to relapse.

The study findings, published online by Neuropsychopharmacology, suggest the drug inhibits dopamine beta-hydroxylase, an enzyme related to cocaine relapse.

“Nepicastat is a selective dopamine beta-hydroxylase inhibitor that does not sequester copper or impair a host of other enzymes like disulfiram,” Weinshenker says. “We reasoned that if disulfiram is really working through dopamine beta-hydroxylase, then nepicastat might be a better alternative.”

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