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Dronabinol: Anti-Nausea Drug to Treat Sleep Apnea

Dronabinol: Anti-Nausea Drug to Treat Sleep Apnea

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  • Sleep apnea is often characterized by one or two breathing pauses during sleep.
  • Scientists have found an anti-nausea drug that could help to treat sleep apnea.
  • Dronabinol is the anti-nausea drug that could be effective in treating sleep apnea.

An old anti-nausea drug could serve as a new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, finds a new study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University.

The research study presented at the SLEEP 2017 annual meeting stated that Dronabinol drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients for more than 25 years could help people who suffer from sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea is a condition that often occurs as a result of one or more breathing pauses during sleep. They could often result in significant health problems such as coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Around 22 million Americans would suffer from the disorder and around 80% of the cases were left undiagnosed.

Carley said, "At the present time there are no approved drug treatments for sleep apnea, and there remains an important unmet need for fully effective and acceptable treatments of the disorder."

Previous studies had found dronabinol, a cannabinoid agonist to be effective in treating sleep apnea.

Research Study
The research study received a federal grant to initiate the Pharmacotherapy of Apnea by Cannabimimetic Enhancement (PACE) study.

It is the first study to receive sponsored randomized controlled trial of any existing drug treatment for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

The patients were divided into three groups:

  • One group was given a low dose of the drug
  • The second group received a higher dose of the drug
  • The third group was given a placebo
The subjects received the drug for six weeks once daily before bed.

Carley said, "In comparison to the placebo, six weeks of treatment by the highest dose of dronabinol (10 milligrams) was associated with a lower frequency of apneas or hypopneas during sleep, decreased subjective sleepiness, and greater overall treatment satisfaction."

"Neither the amount of sleep nor objective sleepiness improved."

The University of Illinois at Chicago has licensed the intellectual property that is related to experimental drug treatment used in the study to RespireRx.

The author also said that scientists have long tried to identify drugs that could treat sleep apnea for nearly 35 years.

Carley said, "By providing a path toward the first viable obstructive sleep apnea drug, our studies could have a major impact on clinical practice."

"However, expanded and pivotal clinical trials must still be conducted to fully establish the best approach to cannabinoid therapy in obstructive sleep apnea."

Dronabinol Drug
Dronabinol drug is often prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting that is caused by chemotherapy. It is also used to treat loss of appetite and weight loss who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

It belongs to a class of medications called cannabinoids. The drug could mainly act by affecting the area of the brain that could control nausea, vomiting and appetite. It comes in the form of a capsule to take by mouth.

  1. Dronabinol - ( https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a607054.html)

Source: Medindia

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