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Meth Addiction Cure: UCLA Tests Ibudilast On Human Addicts

Huffington Post, April 3, 2013

LOS ANGELES -- The Food and Drug Administration has fast-tracked human tests of what may be the first cure for methamphetamine addiction. The drug also may be the first non-opiate drug treatment for heroin and opiate addiction.

In a recent trial, UCLA researchers administered the drug Ibudilast, or MN-166, to 11 non-treatment-seeking meth addicts. The trial, the first of three phases of Ibudilast human testing required for FDA approval, was meant to test the safety of the drug taken in combination with meth. Researchers said the treatment appears to have passed the safety test and eased the addiction.

"Very preliminary results would indicate that Ibudilast may dampen craving and improve cognitive functioning," said Dr. Aimee Swanson, co-investigator on the trial and research director at the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine.

Researchers have been trying to develop medication to treat meth addiction for more than 20 years. There were about 439,000 meth abusers in the U.S. in 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national survey. Meth addiction cost the country an estimated $23.4 billion in 2005 alone, according to a RAND Corp. study.

The only options right now for meth addicts seeking recovery are counseling, an in-patient rehab center or Narcotics or Crystal Meth Anonymous. These treatments don't work for many people, Swanson said. The FDA fast tracks treatments for serious or life-threatening conditions that demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs. The designation may lead to expedited regulatory review.

"When we see people come to participate in the trial, it's really their last resort," Swanson said. "Many of them can no longer hold down a job, they have strained relationships with family members. Gone went the cars, gone went the business, gone went the house, gone went the kids. The main focus of this person's life is using meth."

The need for another option is dire, Swanson said. "It seems cruel and unusual to just leave them hanging."