November 4, 2008, Basel, Switzerland – Clinical trials have begun on a new U.S.-backed drug to treat the debilitating feeling of heightened vigilance experienced by veterans with post-traumatic stress, Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Synosia said Nov. 3.
The study is funded with $1.4 million from the U.S. Defense Department and will focus on veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Synosia said.
The company said it hopes the drug, called nepicastat, will help patients who have lost the ability to accurately assess danger, resulting in a constant sense of alertness.
The condition, known as hyperarousal, is one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Others include sleeplessness, anger and withdrawal from friends and family.
Post-traumatic stress disorder affects people from all walks of life, but is particularly common in veterans. Some 40,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with the disorder since 2003.
Synosia said the clinical trial will be conducted by researchers at veterans medical centers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Houston; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Officials at the U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs could not immediately be reached for comment.
Initial results about the effectiveness and tolerability of nepicastat are expected next spring, said Synosia spokesman Jan Gregor. Synosia is conducting separate trials to test whether nepicastat is effective as a treatment for cocaine abuse.
Nepicastat works by inhibiting the conversion of the brain chemical dopamine into an adrenaline-like compound called norepinephrine.