First effective drug for sleep apnea identified


June 5, 2003
Blog Entry, Health

In a clinical trial conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers have demonstrated the first promising drug treatment for a common and life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea. The drug, an antidepressant called mirtazapine, significantly reduced the symptoms of sleep apnea. It cut in half the number of times breathing stopped or slowed during sleep and reduced the number of times sleep was disrupted by 28 percent. All 12 patients who participated in the study showed improvement. From University of Illinois at Chicago:First effective drug for sleep disorder identified

In a clinical trial conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers have demonstrated the first promising drug treatment for a common and life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea.

The drug, an antidepressant called mirtazapine, significantly reduced the symptoms of sleep apnea. It cut in half the number of times breathing stopped or slowed during sleep and reduced the number of times sleep was disrupted by 28 percent. All 12 patients who participated in the study showed improvement.

“The drug provided the largest benefit and the most consistent improvement of any pharmaceutical therapy tested in controlled studies to date,” said David Carley, professor of medicine, pharmacology and bioengineering and director of research at the UIC Center for Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders.

The results of the trial will be presented this week at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Chicago by Carley and co-investigator Dr. Miodrag Radulovacki, professor of pharmacology and medicine at UIC.

“This has real clinical significance,” said Radulovacki. “An estimated 15-20 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, yet there is currently no cure and no fully effective long-term treatment for the disorder.”

Apnea — which means “without breath” — is diagnosed when a person periodically stops breathing for 10 seconds or more or has episodes of reduced breathing during sleep. People suffering from sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times a night, often for a minute or longer. The disorder is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and adult-onset diabetes. Behavioral problems and cognitive impairments can occur due to insufficient rest.

At present, sleep apnea is treated with mechanical devices, most often masks or nasal prongs, that maintain a continuous positive airway pressure. Such devices are uncomfortable, however, and difficult to use long-term.

The 12 patients in the UIC study were between the ages of 20 and 70. They received one of two dosages of mirtazapine or a placebo an hour before bedtime. They were monitored throughout the night in the UIC Center for Sleep and Ventilatory Disorders after each of three seven-day treatment periods.

The clinical trial at UIC followed years of laboratory tests of several classes of medications on a strain of rats that exhibit sleep apneas similar to the human disorder. Mirtazapine showed the most promise; other drugs either improved the condition only marginally or made it worse.

Mirtazapine blocks the activity of a chemical in the nervous system called serotonin that is involved in regulating mood, emotion, appetite and sleep.

The UIC study was funded by NV Organon, which markets mirtazapine as Remeron for the treatment of depression.

Mirtazapine has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of sleep apnea. Its use in this trial was approved by a UIC institutional review board for experimental purposes only.


3 Responses to First effective drug for sleep apnea identified

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  2. Anonymous May 3, 2007 at 5:54 pm #

    I recently subjected myself to a “Sleep Study” done in a sleep center owned by a local hospital. I was quoted a fee of $1300 dollars and recieved a bill for $1700.
    The technician taped my mouth closed so that I could hardly breathe.
    I struggled all night just to discover that they had not monitored by blood pressure at all (it was clearly stated to be the reason for the test). I had to ask for it to be taken the next morning when I discovered by face flushed and my nose was blue. They had to find a BP cuff to take it (no one had seen it for a “few days”) and discovered that it was 188 over 110.
    This is only a small sample of what transpired at this place during the night. I slept very little and only for very brief periods, for I would wake up gasping for air. Then when I get their report, it gave a whole list of apnea symptoms and they lied about nearly the whole report. When I went to my doctor who sent me there, he said that the test was accurate and that he had changed his mind about fixing my deviated septom. He would order me a pap machine instead. They tried to sell me one at the sleep center before the test began. I felt I was being given a sales pitch instead of a medical test. Once I discovered that they did not tell the truth on my test report, I was convinced that the whole set up was a fraud. My doctor is either getting a kick back or just thinks that I am not telling the truth.

  3. George Velis April 24, 2007 at 9:01 am #

    Sleep apnea Fraud
    Veils v. XXXXX healthcare,
    I have filed a lawsuit against XXXXX (named removed by Editors) healthcare for misrepresentation-fraud. XXXXX healthcare sells durable medical equipment. To make the story short, XXXXX healthcare misrepresented it’s the price of a cpap machine to me. They told me that the total price of the machine and peripherals was $446 and my co-payment $223. Two weeks later they started billing me and without authorization, they started charging my credit card. The machine and peripherals were to be about $2500 dollars, more than 3 times retail price. I believe this is wrong because they take advantage of seriously ill people who are not usually in a good efficient state of mind at the time of purchase. They had been unwilling to correct their behavior and although I beg them to take their machine and peripherals, they refused saying that I won’t get my money back. After trying to reason with them for weeks, I filed and unlimited lawsuit with an attachment for punitive damages for their bad faith. I hope I
    can bring forward this issue to make people aware of their options and the show devastating effects of this disease.
    XXXXX healthcare is a publicly traded company with approximately 10,000 employees.
    Best regards,
    Jorge Rodriguez Velis
    1468 Yosemite Circle
    Clayton CA 94517
    925-864-0101

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