Tag Archives: research

Strong placebo response thwarts painkiller trials

Interesting article, placebo’s as effective as meds.

Drug companies have a problem: they are finding it ever harder to get painkillers through clinical trials. But this isn’t necessarily because the drugs are getting worse. An extensive analysis of trial data1 has found that responses to sham treatments have become stronger over time, making it harder to prove a drug’s advantage over placebo.

The change in response to placebo treatments for pain, discovered by researchers in Canada, holds true only for US clinical trials. “We were absolutely floored when we found out,” says Jeffrey Mogil, who directs the pain-genetics lab at McGill University in Montreal and led the analysis. Simply being in a US trial and receiving sham treatment now seems to relieve pain almost as effectively as many promising new drugs. Mogil thinks that as US trials get longer, larger and more expensive, they may be enhancing participants’ expectations of their effectiveness.

See the entire article here:  http://www.nature.com/news/strong-placebo-response-thwarts-painkiller-trials-1.18511?%3Fftcamp=crm%2Femail%2F%2Fnbe%2FFirstFTEurope%2Fproduct


Research Identifies How Stress Triggers Drug Relapse

Recent research from Brown University could pave the way for new methods of treatment for those recovering from addiction. Researchers identified an exact brain region in rats where the neural steps leading to drug relapse take place, allowing them to block a crucial step in the process that leads to stress-induced relapse.

Prior research has established that acute stress can lead to drug abuse in vulnerable individuals and increase the risk of relapse in recovering addicts. But the exact way that stress triggers the neural processes leading to relapse is still not clearly understood. The Brown study provides new insights on how stress triggers drug abuse, and could lead to more effective treatments for addiction.

According to the study, stress has significant effects on plasticity of the synapses on dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the brain region where the neural activities leading to a stress-induced drug relapse take place.
Stress activates kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the VTA, and the researchers found that by blocking the KORs, they could prevent the rats from relapsing to cocaine use while under stress.

Published this week in the journal Neuron, the study shows blocking these receptors may be a critical step in preventing stress-related drug relapses in humans, as well. The chemical used to block the receptor, “nor-BMI,” may eventually be tested on humans, according to the study’s authors.

“If we understand how kappa opioid receptor antagonists are interfering with the reinstatement of drug seeking we can target that process,” senior study author Julie Kauer said in a statement. “We’re at the point of coming to understand the processes and possible therapeutic targets. Remarkably, this has worked.”

Kauer noted that the study builds upon over a decade of research on how changes in brain synapses relate to behaviors like addiction. The advance is significant, and could accelerate progress towards a medication for those struggling to recover from addiction.

“If we can figure out how not only stress, but the whole system works, then we’ll potentially have a way to tune it down in a person who needs that,” Kauer said.

heart disease & drinking

Can you drink if you have heart disease? Moderate drinking should be OK, if your doctor approves, but you shouldn’t count on alcohol to be a major part of your heart health plan.

“If you don’t drink alcohol now, there is no reason to start,” says Mark Urman, MD, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

It’s true that there have been studies linking drinking small amounts of alcohol — no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women — to better heart health.

But the exact link isn’t clear. Those studies don’t prove that the alcohol (whether it was wine, beer, or liquor) was the only thing that mattered.

Other lifestyle habits could have been involved, the American Heart Association notes. Or the important thing could have been nutrients that are in grapes, which you can get from the grapes themselves, without drinking wine.

“One drink a day is probably healthy for people with heart disease and those without it,” says James Beckerman, MD, a cardiologist at Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic Cardiology in Portland, OR.

But whether or not you drink, you also need to keep the rest of your diet healthy, not smoke, and get regular exercise. Read More.